Chris Heaton-Harris says Northern Ireland Protocol 'only a bit part' of conversations in US

The secretary of state says the Northern Ireland Protocol has "only been a bit part" of his conversations in the US.

Chris Heaton-Harris insisted the purpose of the five-day visit is drumming up new inward investment opportunities for Northern Ireland.

"I'm meeting politicians, they ask about the protocol and whether there's any movement with the European Union in the negotiations, and there's not much to report to be quite frank," the Northern Ireland Secretary told UTV.

"It's only been a bit part of the conversations I've been having.

"Everybody that's interested in politics out here is interested in the UK's relationship with the EU and knows the Northern Ireland Protocol is an element of that and knows we don't have an Executive in Northern Ireland because of the Northern Ireland Protocol.

"They ask questions, but there's very little to update people on."

Asked if he would like the US on his side, Chris Heaton-Harris added: "I'd like to think the US is always on our side."

The Northern Ireland Secretary said a potential visit by US President Joe Biden "has not been a subject of the conversations here".

He added: "Quite the opposite, we're talking about getting business investment into Northern Ireland."

Mr Heaton-Harris also said he has met with one of the US congress members who signed a letter voicing "grave concern" about the UK Government's legacy proposals.

"We are committed to improving the bill to get it to the place where it is a bill that works for all victims of the Troubles that we had," he said.

"I actually met one of those congressmen last night and I'm meeting further congressmen who signed that letter today, and I know I need to explain the position of the Government and why the legacy bill is going through."

The secretary of state wouldn't be drawn on whether he'd legislate for organ donation in the absence of an Executive.

Chris Heaton-Harris is due to meet with the family of Dáithí Mac Gabhann in February.

It comes after it emerged that plans for Dáithí's Law - which would mean NI will follow an opt-out organ donation system, in line with the rest of the UK - had been delayed.

The secretary of state said: "This is something the devolved Executive should be acting on . I'll speak to the family and we'll go from there."

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