NI minister ‘happy to eat humble pie’ to restore UK-Ireland relationship

Steve Baker apologised on Sunday for his ‘ferocious’ stance on negotiations with the EU.

Steve Baker
Steve Baker

A Northern Ireland minister has said he is happy to eat humble pie in a bid to improve the broken relationship between Britain and Ireland.

Steve Baker, previously a strident Brexit supporter, said he is “convinced” that a deal can be reached on the Northern Ireland Protocol if negotiations are made in a “spirit of goodwill”.

It comes after the former member of the pro-Brexit European Research Group of MPs apologised over his “ferocious” stance on negotiations with the EU.

He told the Conservative Party conference in Birmingham on Sunday 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 on Irish broadcaster RTE Radio 1’s Morning Ireland programme on Monday, Mr Baker, said he was sorry that relations between the UK and Ireland have been “soured” by the Brexit process.

Steve Baker
Mr Baker said he was sorry that the Brexit process had soured relations (Jacob King/PA)

“I’m very convinced that, if we get into a negotiation, without pre-conditions, and together in a spirit of goodwill, we can de-escalate this problem and we can get a deal which works for everyone, respecting everyone’s legitimate interests, north-south and east-west,” he said.

“And that really is why, if I have to eat a bit of humble pie in order to restore broken relationships to get that done, well, I’m happy to eat a bit of humble pie.”

Mr Baker said his motivation for his apology was to try to get a “deal that works” on the Northern Ireland Protocol.

“If we’re going to be constructive here and get a deal that works for everyone, we’ve got to de-escalate these tensions. So that was my motivation,” he said.

“I sincerely want to be on the right side of all parties involved in the Belfast Good Friday Agreement so that we can make progress, get a deal and get on with the really serious issues that we face in Northern Ireland.”

He added: “I’m sorry that relations between the United Kingdom and Ireland have been soured by the Brexit process.

“And I recognise that as the leader of the sort of 28, if I can put it in those terms, who rejected Theresa May’s deal three times, that caused enormous amounts of anxiety, and I recognise also that businesses in Northern Ireland faced a lot of costs through this process of uncertainty.

“And those are things I want to see put right.

“We can put those right in the deal.”

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