The new Northern Ireland Secretary has insisted there will be no border between Northern Ireland and Britain.
randon Lewis yesterday reiterated the British government’s position on Northern Ireland and Brexit.
Speaking to reporters in Belfast, ahead of his meetings at Stormont House, he said: “We are absolutely clear, as the UK government we will not be having a border down the Irish Sea.”
Mr Lewis replaced Julian Smith in the cabinet reshuffle on Thursday.
He said he is committed to delivering on government proposals addressing the legacy of past violence.
Mr Lewis also said he wanted to build on promises made by his predecessor when power- sharing was restored last month.
Many MPs oppose the prosecution of soldiers for alleged past wrongdoing.
Mr Lewis was asked whether he stood over commitments in the power-sharing deal, specifically legacy, and responded “absolutely”.
“The New Decade, New Approach agreement is something the government is absolutely committed to and I see my job as actually building on that and delivering on the promise of that agreement.”
He paid tribute to the “great work” done by his “brilliant” predecessor Mr Smith, who he said was a good friend.
Downing Street reportedly felt left out of the loop over the terms of the deal Mr Smith was negotiating last month, which eventually led to the Stormont Assembly functioning again after a three-year suspension.
There are concerns in Tory circles that the agreement includes plans for a historical investigations unit of independent detectives.
Its remit is expected to cover alleged crimes by British soldiers, republican and loyalist paramilitaries and police during the 30-year Troubles.
Those close to Mr Smith insisted that Number 10 and the prime minister had been kept fully informed about the terms of the Stormont arrangement.
Mr Lewis visited the Centre for Security Information Technologies (CSIT) in Belfast.
He said his focus was on making a “brilliant success” of the political deal to restore the institutions signed last month, adding: “Investing in infrastructure, getting things moving again, that is my focus.”
Sinn Féin’s deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill said Mr Lewis had agreed to an urgent early meeting to discuss the range of issues on his desk, including legacy, “bad faith” on pensions, Brexit and political and financial commitments to make the Assembly and ministerial executive sustainable.
Meanwhile, First Minister Arlene Foster urged action from local politicians as well, saying: “The clear message from not only our voters but all voters was that Northern Ireland could not continue to drift after three years without local decisions on everyday issues like our roads, schools and hospitals.
“This vacuum could never provide businesses with the clarity, certainty and long-term stability to plan for the future.”
Mr Lewis’s comments come amid reports that the UK can be brought to the European Court of Justice if it does not carry out checks and controls on goods that are going from Great Britain to Northern Ireland.
Questions have been raised on the EU side recently over the UK’s commitment to the Irish Protocol following comments from Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab.
Mr Raab has previously said claims there would be checks and controls were “directly in conflict, not just with the Withdrawal Agreement but the undertakings in the political declaration”.