The SNP leader and Ms O
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Nicola Sturgeon warned questions about the future of the UK are not ‘going away’ today as she met Sinn Fein’s Michelle O’Neill in Edinburgh.

The SNP leader and Ms O’Neill – whose party emerged victorious in recent elections – held talks on ‘shared areas of interest’ as they both mull how to break up the UK.

The encounter will cause concern for Boris Johnson, as he now faces separatists in charge of the largest parties in Scotland and Northern Ireland. 

Scottish Tories said the Ms Sturgeon choosing to entertain Sinn Fein showed she would ‘work with anyone so long as they support the break-up of the UK’. 

After the discussions at her Bute House residence, Ms Sturgeon – who wants to hold another independence referendum next year – said that the fates of Scotland and Northern Ireland were not necessarily linked.

But she insisted the Brexit process had ‘brought to the fore some very fundamental questions’ over the system of governance.

‘Scotland, and indeed Northern Ireland – we both voted against Brexit but we are both now dealing with the very negative consequences of Brexit,’ Ms Sturgeon said.

‘That really brings to the fore that that system of government that’s been at play in the UK for some time now is not serving all of our interests.

‘You hear these questions in Scotland, you hear them in Northern Ireland. Increasingly, you’re hearing these questions being asked in Wales, as well.

‘I don’t think these questions are going to go away.’

Ms O’Neill – whose party has been calling for a referendum on unifying the island of Ireland within five years – said: ‘The historic bonds between Scotland and the island of Ireland go back centuries. We enjoy a long & enduring affinity as neighbours and friends.

‘Moving forward we will strengthen the bonds that tie us.’ 

The SNP leader and Ms O'Neill - whose party emerged victorious in recent elections - held talks on 'shared areas of interest' as they both mull how to break up the UK

The SNP leader and Ms O'Neill - whose party emerged victorious in recent elections - held talks on 'shared areas of interest' as they both mull how to break up the UK

The SNP leader and Ms O’Neill – whose party emerged victorious in recent elections – held talks on ‘shared areas of interest’ as they both mull how to break up the UK

After the discussions at her Bute House residence, Ms Sturgeon - who wants to hold another independence referendum next year - said that the fates of Scotland and Northern Ireland were not necessarily linked

After the discussions at her Bute House residence, Ms Sturgeon - who wants to hold another independence referendum next year - said that the fates of Scotland and Northern Ireland were not necessarily linked

After the discussions at her Bute House residence, Ms Sturgeon – who wants to hold another independence referendum next year – said that the fates of Scotland and Northern Ireland were not necessarily linked

he encounter will cause concern for Boris Johnson, as he now faces separatists in charge of the largest parties in Scotland and Northern Ireland

he encounter will cause concern for Boris Johnson, as he now faces separatists in charge of the largest parties in Scotland and Northern Ireland

he encounter will cause concern for Boris Johnson, as he now faces separatists in charge of the largest parties in Scotland and Northern Ireland

The Scottish First Minister said she was ‘not surprised’ US Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi had intervened to warn Mr Johnson against axing the Northern Ireland protocol.

She told journalists the Democrat had expressed such sentiments when the pair met on a visit to Washington earlier this week.

Ms Sturgeon said: ‘I’ve heard her make these comments before and I think they reflect the position of the US administration.

‘The importance of maintaining peace on Ireland is more important than anything else, and I think that should be the sentiment that really governs all of the decisions around this.

‘It is deeply concerning, and I think deeply reckless, for Boris Johnson’s Government to threaten unilateral action because that could trigger a chain of events that will have a seriously detrimental impact on all of us across the UK.’

Ms O’Neill said people in Northern Ireland want to see the protocol being made to work instead of the ‘uncertainty and instability’ the UK Government is engaged in.

‘The protocol provides us some mitigation against the worst impact of Brexit, the hardest possible Brexit that’s been delivered by Boris Johnson in London and the DUP partners in Belfast,’ she told the PA news agency.

‘I think that it is really, really important that the protocol is made to work and that all sides are engaged in conversation.’

Scottish Conservative constitution spokesman Donald Cameron criticised Ms Sturgeon for meeting Ms O’Neill.

He said: ‘People across Scotland – including those who support independence – will be concerned about Nicola Sturgeon’s eager embrace of Michelle O’Neill and Sinn Fein.

‘For many, the party’s associations will be far from the ‘civic nationalism’ that Nicola Sturgeon claims to champion, but it seems that the SNP will work with anyone so long as they support the break-up of the UK.’

In a stark message, House speaker Nancy Pelosi branded the PM's threat to axe the protocol 'deeply concerning'

In a stark message, House speaker Nancy Pelosi branded the PM's threat to axe the protocol 'deeply concerning'

In a stark message, House speaker Nancy Pelosi branded the PM’s threat to axe the protocol ‘deeply concerning’

The intervention will set alarm bells ringing in Downing Street after months of efforts to convince the White House the protocol is the source of rising sectarian tensions in the province (pictured)

The intervention will set alarm bells ringing in Downing Street after months of efforts to convince the White House the protocol is the source of rising sectarian tensions in the province (pictured)

The intervention will set alarm bells ringing in Downing Street after months of efforts to convince the White House the protocol is the source of rising sectarian tensions in the province (pictured)

Sinn Fein won Stormont elections earlier this month, but no executive has been formed because the DUP will not nominate a deputy first minister unless the protocol is fundamentally overhauled.

They insist that the rules effectively create a border in the Irish Sea, and separate Northern Ireland from mainland Britain. 

Power-sharing rules in the peace agreement mean that both unionists and republicans must participate in order for the administration to function.

This week, Foreign Secretary Liz Truss announced plans to legislate to override parts of the Brexit withdrawal treaty the UK struck with the EU.

However, the government has stopped short of publishing the law and appears to be taking a softer approach to the crisis. 

The EU has said that the wider post-Brexit trade deal could be at risk if Mr Johnson follows through on scrapping the protocol – a move which he says might be necessary to maintain peace. The PM signed up to the post-Brexit arrangements but says they are being applied too harshly by the EU.

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