Rishi Sunak to call for 'unity' as he attends British-Irish Council summit amid talks with Nicola Sturgeon

Rishi Sunak is set to call for “unity” across the United Kingdom as he becomes the first Prime Minister to attend the British-Irish Council summit since Gordon Brown.

The Prime Minister will meet with representatives from the Irish Government, UK Government, devolved governments and Crown dependencies at the 38th summit on Thursday.

Mr Sunak will call for the four nations to work together in the face of an economic crisis, with levelling-up secretary and minister for intergovernmental relations, Michael Gove, saying it signals intent to “work positively” with the devolved governments.

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The Prime Minister is expected to say: “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.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak will attend the British-Irish council on Thursday.

“Let’s deliver for all our people across these great islands – and build a future defined not by division, but by unity and hope.”

Noting the absence of representation from Northern Ireland at the summit due to the collapse of the executive, the Prime Minister will also stress the important role of the British-Irish Council in finding resolutions.

He is expected to say: “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.”

Ahead of the summit, the Prime Minister will have a bilateral meeting with the Taoiseach Micheál Martin. He is also expected to meet with First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and First Minister of Wales Mark Drakeford.

This follows initial phone calls with the leaders immediately after taking office, something not done by his predecessor Liz Truss.

The Scottish Government confirmed Thursday’s talks between Ms Sturgeon and Mr Sunak will take place in Blackpool.

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A spokesperson said: “Ahead of the 38th British-Irish Council this Friday, the First Minister will hold bilateral talks with the Prime Minister in Blackpool on Thursday afternoon, and take part in a meeting of the Prime Minister and Heads of Devolved Government Council immediately following that.

“The meeting will be an opportunity to discuss the cost-of-living crisis, the need to avoid damaging austerity in the upcoming autumn statement, and the importance of respecting the right of the people of Scotland to choose their own constitutional future.”

Chancellor Jeremy Hunt will join discussions virtually. Mr Gove will be in attendance at the summit’s plenary session on Friday.

He said: “The Prime Minister’s attendance at the British-Irish Council is a signal of our intent to work positively with our Irish counterparts and colleagues from the devolved governments and Crown dependencies across the UK.

“As the minister for intergovernmental relations, I look forward to chairing the council this week and working co-operatively in the months ahead as we face up to many shared challenges.”

The British-Irish Council comprises of representatives from the UK Government; Irish Government; Scottish Government; Northern Ireland Executive; Welsh Government; Isle of Man Government; Government of Jersey and Government of Guernsey.

Established under the Belfast (Good Friday) agreement, the council’s aims are to promote positive relationships among the people of the islands. The Prime Minister will open the summit, hosted by the UK Government in the North West, and attend a dinner with representatives.

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