WATCH: Full analysis from UTV's Political Editor Tracey Magee:
The Prime Minister has said a Northern Ireland minister who apologised for his former "ferocious" stance on negotiations with the EU was speaking for himself.
Liz Truss also confirmed there would be an election called if there was no Executive in place by October 28.
Steve Baker, previously a member of the pro-Brexit European Research Group of MPs, told the Conservative Party conference in Birmingham that relations with Ireland were not “where they should be” and added that ministers needed to act with “humility” to restore relationships with the Republic and the EU.
Speaking to UTV Political Editor Tracey Magee, Liz Truss said: "Steve speaks from his own personal experience being deeply involved in the Brexit debate, but he speaks for the whole government in that we absolutely want to find a negotiated solution to deal with the issues of the Northern Ireland Protocol and work with our neighbours in the Republic of Ireland."
When pressed on whether she thought she should apologise on behalf of the UK Government, Truss said she had "always worked constructively with the EU and the Republic of Ireland", but reaffirmed that "we do need to fix the very serious issues that have been caused by the NI Protocol".
Wycombe MP Mr Baker told the conference: “The thing I want to add, as one of the people who perhaps acted with the most ferocious determination to get the UK out of the EU. I think we have to bring some humility to this situation. “It is with humility that I want to accept and acknowledge that I and others did not always behave in a way which encouraged Ireland and the European Union to trust us, to accept that they have legitimate interests, legitimate interests that we are willing to respect. “Because they do and we are willing to respect them, and I am sorry about that, because relations with Ireland are not where they should be and we all need to work extremely hard to improve that and I know that we are doing so.”
Ulster Unionist Party Leader Doug Beattie said Steve Baker's olive branch should be reciprocated by the Irish Government and the EU.
"To deal with the protocol it is imperative that there is trust. That is why we as a party have kept negotiating with the EU, kept good relations with the Government of the Republic of Ireland and advocated on behalf of Northern Ireland with the US State Department.
“It is clear over the last 24 months relationships and trust have become more than just frosty.
“Therefore, if we are to deal with the unworkable protocol we must change our language. Steve Baker has offered an olive branch on behalf of the UK Government to the Irish Government and the EU which should be reciprocated.
“It is important that the EU and the Irish Government acknowledge they have not helped the situation either. By promoting false narratives and continuing with the clearly false line that the protocol protects the Belfast Agreement they have also damaged relations.
“To deal with the protocol and build future relationships to help Northern Ireland prosper we need trust. I ask everyone to double their efforts to deal with a protocol that simply does not work.”
Meanwhile, Ireland’s Europe minister Thomas Byrne welcomed the comments from Mr Baker, saying: “There is an opportunity now to find agreed solutions around protocol implementation.
“It’s important we now move into real engagement between EU and UK teams, to arrive at solutions.”
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