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The future of the Union is on shaky ground

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The violence in Belfast has stopped ministers in their tracks. As fighting broke out and petrol bombs were thrown between loyalist and nationalist areas, police on the ground described the riots as the worst in Northern Ireland for years.

While the death of Prince Philip means that some planned protests may now be called off, this is a problem that’s not going away. Instead, the UK Government’s Union problems are mounting on all fronts.

The issue ministers face on Northern Ireland is that just as there is no single cause – a combination of societal issues, Brexit and the decision not to fine anyone over the egregious breaches of social distancing at Bobby Storey’s funeral are all thought to have contributed – there is no single solution.

The view in Government is that the violence has spilled out over myriad grievances. The Northern Ireland Secretary, Brandon Lewis, is expected to stay in Belfast for the next few days while there will be a renewed push to address various social inequality issues.

Ministers, however, acknowledge that the Northern Ireland Protocol has contributed to a deterioration of the situation. Loyalists have been left angry at the trading arrangements, which mean there are now economic barriers between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK.

It’s an issue that is hard for this Government to solve. First,........

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