#GE2024: Why what happens in Westminster matters here

13 June 2024 - by Anna Mercer

Westminster politics has had it its fair share of ups and downs since the last General Election in December 2019.

The mandate has seen three Prime Ministers in Johnson, Truss and Sunak, all managing internal challenges within the Conservative Party. Much of this stems from the complicated divorce from the European Union, with Northern Ireland at the heart of the settlement.

The revolving door of personnel was not only reserved to prime ministers, with five different Chancellors and four NI Secretaries of State.

Throw in a couple of years of COVID and the Assembly straddling two different unofficial breaks (2017-2020; 2022-204), and the relationship with Westminster has been a complicated one. Legislation passed by the various NI Secretaries of State helped public services keep the doors open (just) and ensured departments received their budgetary allocations, albeit in rollover form.

But away from the parliamentary and party-political drama, and in consideration of what the actual role and remit of UK Government is when it comes to Northern Ireland, what happens in the Houses of Parliament and corridors of Whitehall continues to play an important role in local politics.

So what has that looked like for Northern Ireland in the last mandate? We look at a couple of key areas that have framed recent years.


Current pressures on public services have brought funding arrangements for NI into sharp focus. With rates the only way for the Executive to raise revenue locally, decisions on fiscal policy and spending by the UK Government are critically important.

During the last Executive hiatus, much was made by the need to introduce revenue raising powers by NI Secretary of State Chris Heaton-Harris, which included a public consultation on options for this. Saved by the bell, and by a returned Executive who have refused to implement any such levers, there is very little appetite to impose additional costs in the context of a cost-of-living crisis.

The recent Interim Fiscal Framework agreed between the UK Treasury and Minister of Finance Caoimhe Archibald MLA is evidence of progress in moving to a funding model for NI that recognises relative need, moving to 124%. How this evolves and translates across future budgets will be interesting to watch, as well as any possible devolution of fiscal powers from Westminster such as income tax or the apprenticeship levy.  

What is clear and agreed across all parties in Northern Ireland is that we don’t have enough money, nor the means to raise it, in the current arrangement, and so how a new government engages with this problem will be key in the months and years ahead.

Windsor Framework

The Windsor Framework, agreed by the UK and EU in February 2023, established a range of new structures and processes to manage post-Brexit trading arrangements between NI, GB and the EU.

Key to its future operation will be how the UK and EU, alongside and our local politicians, navigate proposed new EU laws applicable to Northern Ireland.

Meetings of the UK-EU Joint Committee, which Executive Ministers attend, as well as the new mechanisms including the Windsor Framework Democratic Scrutiny Committee, Stormont Brake and business engagement structures, will be important in an ever-evolving trading and regulatory landscape.

Other legislation impacting NI

The outgoing Conservative Government enacted significant pieces of legislation in the last Parliament with direct impacts to Northern Ireland including the Troubles (Legacy and Reconciliation) Act. The Labour Party have said should they win the election, they will repeal this legislation, as well as seeking a veterinary agreement with the EU to ease some of the remaining difficulties in post-Brexit trading arrangements.

Other legislation passed in the period 2019-24 impacting NI has included:

• United Kingdom Internal Market Act 2020
• Environment Act 2021
• Nationality and Borders Act 2022
• Identity and Language (Northern Ireland) Act 2022
• Illegal Migration Act 2023

When all votes are counted on 5 July and the new Cabinet takes shape, how important Northern Ireland is in a new Government’s thinking remains to be seen. However what is clear is that there are wider strategic challenges that need addresses if our Executive is to be given the tools to address challenges such as funding of public services in the years ahead.

For more information on how we can support you engage with the new UK Government, and to find out more about our UK party conference offering, please get in touch with us at ideas@stratagem-ni.com