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Why Tories wouldn’t get out of bed to hear unionist fears over Protocol

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Hastening through the chill Manchester autumn morning air to the Conservative Party conference this week, I fretted. Would I be in time to secure a seat for Lord Frost’s key address on the Northern Ireland Protocol? Boris Johnson’s leadership address apart, this was the big set-piece speech, surely?

As it transpired, I had a choice of dozens of rows on which to sit, let alone chairs. The Brexit Minister’s absurdly early slot had failed to tempt the hungover from their lie-in, or confrontation with breakfast. Those in better condition had found alternatives. It was almost as if Conservatives do not really care about Northern Ireland. Surely not?

Two hours later, though, the auditorium was packed for the Secretary of State, Brandon Lewis, and former First Minster turned GB News star Arlene Foster.

The ex-DUP leader took the stage following a musical interlude containing the lyrics: “Showtime: Guess who’s back again?” Only the unkindest would suggest the reason for the huge crowd was that Rishi Sunak was to follow.

Foster did not delay the Chancellor, coming rather quickly — less than 30 seconds in — to her point. “What are we waiting for?” she asked of triggering Article 16 to suspend the Protocol.

The Secretary of State laughed heartily, but uneasily. He waxed lyrical about the “biggest investment in Northern Ireland in the last nine months that we’ve seen for decades”. The New Decade New Approach deal was worth £2bn, he claimed. I know an........

© Belfast Telegraph

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