Svetlana EkimenkoAll materialsWrite to the authorThe 38th British-Irish Council (BIC) Summit is taking place in Blackpool, England, on November 10-11, with Rishi Sunak’s attendance set to be the first by a UK Prime Minister since Gordon Brown put in an appearance back in 2007.Rishi Sunak will urge a “pragmatic” approach in the face of global economic challenges, urging joint efforts to “deliver for the people”, as he addresses the opening 38th summit of the British-Irish Council (BIC) in Blackpool, UK.The British Prime Minister, who succeeded embattled Liz Truss just two weeks earlier, will seek to strengthen fractious inter-government relations between the UK and Irish governments, as well as the devolved administrations.“We face huge challenges from global economic headwinds to war in Europe. So let’s be pragmatic. Let’s work together in our shared interests. Let’s deliver for all our people across these great islands – and build a future defined not by division, but by unity and hope,” Sunak is expected to say when opening the summit, according to advance extracts made public by Downing Street.The British–Irish Council was established in 1999 following the signing of the Good Friday Agreement, and was tailored to facilitate collaboration between its members, which comprise Republic of Ireland, the United Kingdom, the devolved governments of Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales, and the governments of the Crown Dependencies of the UK: Guernsey, Jersey and the Isle of Man.
NI Protocol Gridlock
On this occasion, there will be no representative at the summit from Northern Ireland at the summit due to the collapse of the Stormont power-sharing Executive over the contentious issue of the NI Protocol.Accordingly, the UK PM will reiterate his commitment to restoring the Northern Ireland Executive, saying:“The British-Irish Council is a vital East-West body under the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement, an agreement that I am deeply committed to. We all want to see power sharing restored as soon as possible. I’m determined to deliver that.”Stormont is used to refer to the Northern Ireland Assembly, based in Belfast, established in 1998, after the signing of the Good Friday Agreement, which put an end to decades of armed conflict. The Assembly uses a power-sharing system of government. However, since February, there has been no Stormont government due to the boycott by the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) – the second-largest party in the recent elections after Sinn Fein.The DUP has been protesting over the Northern Ireland Protocol. This crucial aspect of the UK-EU Brexit deal keeps Northern Ireland aligned with some EU trade rules, but has been criticized by the DUP for the new checks and paperwork for certain goods which are imported into Northern Ireland from the rest of the UK. Earlier in the year, the DUP called the “trade border” the protocol in its existent state has brought in as “an existential threat” to the future of Northern Ireland’s place within the UK.Ahead of the BIC summit, Northern Ireland Secretary Chris Heaton-Harris announced plans to extend a deadline for calling a new election in Northern Ireland to ensure public spending continues while the region is without a devolved government. No new ballot is expected until March at the earliest.
WorldUK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak Says State Cannot ‘Fix Every Problem’5 November, 04:06 GMTOn the sidelines of the summit, Rishi Sunak will meet with the heads of the devolved governments, Scotland’s First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, and Mark Drakeford, First Minister of Wales, as well as Prime Minister of Ireland Micheal Martin to discuss issues including the raging cost of living crisis. Sunak will also offer the devolved leaders an update on looming spending cuts and tax rises in the government’s fiscal statement, set for November 17.
Scotland’s ‘Solo’ Bid
The first in-person meeting with Sturgeon is to come after she had called on Sunak to call a snap election in the wake of his election as Conservative Party leader and UK PM.The Scottish First Minister had told the former Chancellor that Scotland would never vote for him, saying on Twitter:”As for the politics, I’d suggest one immediate decision he should take and one he certainly should not. He should call an early General Election… For Scotland, of course, he becomes another PM we did not and, without doubt would not vote for even if given the chance.” This comes as the Sturgeon-led Scottish National Party (SNP) has been increasingly making an economic case for independence, arguing that “a more sustainable economy is more possible for Scotland with independence, than it ever will be with Westminster control.”Nicola Sturgeon, who had outlined the arguments in a policy paper, A Stronger Economy with Independence, hopes to stage a second independence referendum on October 19, 2023. Ever since voters were first asked whether they wanted independence for Scotland in September 2014, with 55 per cent voting against it, the government in Holyrood has been urging a second referendum, with the UK government refusing to grant its consent.
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