A staunchly pro-Brexit Northern Ireland minister who apologised to Ireland for not always being trustworthy in protocol negotiations said he is “happy to eat humble pie”.
The prominent Brexiteer Steve Baker apologised to Ireland and the EU on Sunday in a speech Conservative Party conference in Birmingham for “not always behaving” in a way that encouraged them to “trust us”.
Minister of state Baker has now said he apologised in the hope that negotiations can resume in a “spirit of goodwill” to secure a deal that benefits all parties.
He said 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.
“I'm very convinced that if we get into a negotiation, without preconditions and sit down together in a spirit of goodwill, we can deescalate this problem and we can get a deal which works for everyone respecting everyone's legitimate interests north-south, and east-west,” Mr Baker said on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland.
“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.”
He also conceded that his apology “did not go down well” with some loyalists and unionists.
“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.
“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,” Mr Baker said.