Irish Foreign Minister warns NI Protocol won't be resolved by election deadline of 28 October

Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney doesn’t think the protocol issues will be resolved by 28 October Credit: PA

Northern Ireland looks set to be headed for another election as Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney doesn’t think the protocol issues will be resolved by 28 October.

Under changes made to the Northern Ireland Act by the Westminster government in February - brought in to prevent a repeat of the collapse of power sharing in Northern Ireland between 2017 and 2020 - a new election can be called if no Executive is formed within 24 weeks.

The DUP have blocked Stormont reforming in protest against the protocol which they say creates an Irish Sea border between Northern Ireland and Great Britain.

Speaking in the Dail, Mr Coveney said he didn’t expect talks between the UK and the EU over the protocol to reach a resolution before the cut-off date.

The Irish Foreign Minister is due to have dinner with Foreign Secretary James Cleverly in London on Thursday evening.

Leo Varadkar thinks the original NI Protocol is too strict Credit: PA

Meanwhile, the Tanaiste has said that he feels the NI Protocol is a “little too strict” in its original form.

Ireland’s deputy Premier Leo Varadkar said that because the protocol was working despite not being fully implemented, it shows there was room for “further flexibility for some changes”.

“We should not forget that the protocol is working. It was designed to prevent a hard border between north and south, and there is no hard border between north and south,” Mr Varadkar said.

“It was designed to protect the integrity of the single market and it has, and also the Northern Ireland economy is outperforming the rest of the UK economically.

“But one thing that I would concede is that perhaps the protocol, as it was originally designed, was a little too strict.

“The protocol has not been fully implemented and yet it is still working.

“I think that, you know, demonstrates that there is some room for further flexibility for some changes that hopefully would make it acceptable to all sides.”

Legislation to enable the UK Government to effectively tear up parts of the protocol is to return to Westminster on Tuesday (11 October).

The NI Protocol Bill has already cleared the House of Commons and will be debated at second reading by the House of Lords, which is expected to consider it at length, next week.

Want a quick and expert briefing on the biggest news stories? Listen to our latest podcasts to find out What You Need To Know.