A former minister has played down expectations of how far a new Northern Ireland Brexit deal will go, but said it is expected to be announced today.
Sir Robert Buckland, former Secretary for Wales and Justice Secretary, said “it appears that the UK government and the EU have reached an agreement.”
Philip Rycroft, former brexit The permanent secretary of the department also said that “a deal must be done”; otherwise the president of the European Commission would not be coming to the UK today.
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has been in talks with the EU for the past few weeks to try to resolve the important issues that North Ireland Protocol has brought to trade in the nation after the UK left the EU three years ago.
He and the president of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen they are set to make an announcement this afternoon if a final agreement can be reached after further talks today.
Final talks on the post-Brexit deal: live policy updates
Sir Robert, who sits on the House of Commons’ Northern Ireland affairs committee, told Sky News’ Kay Burley program at breakfast: “We must not let the perfect be the enemy of the good.
“I’m sure this deal will probably have some unanswered questions and it may not solve all the problems at once.
“But it looks like it’s going to be a big step forward.”
He added that if that is the case, the government will not have to take “unilateral action”, referring to the Northern Ireland Protocol Bill tabled by Boris Johnson that he bypassed the deal he agreed with the EU, but Sunak stopped him.
What is the Northern Ireland Protocol and why is it important?
How today’s Brexit talks between Sunak and von der Leyen could play out
On why Sunak appears to have gone further than his three predecessors in reaching a deal that benefits both the EU and the UK, Sir Robert said: “This prime minister has been able to build a relationship of trust.”
“I think it’s about personalities, this is not a reflection of previous prime ministers, but if you get along with people and earn their trust, I think, in all our experiences, more business can be done.”
“I think the relationship with the French president has probably improved, I think there is that provision.”
What could be in the new Northern Ireland deal?
- Westminster, not the EU, could set VAT rates and state subsidies for Northern Ireland
- The EU can access real-time UK data on trade flows in the Irish Sea
- Brussels must notify the UK about future EU regulations targeting Northern Ireland: Stormont can object and the EU can stop applying that regulation.
- If the EU objects, Northern Ireland courts can decide on the implementation of the EU regulation before Brussels has a say
- Reduced role of the Court of Justice of the European Communities
Will there be a vote on the deal?
Both Conservative and Labor MPs have they have given him a three line whip for today, which means they face suspension from their matches if they don’t show up in parliament.
This has sparked speculation that there will be a vote by MPs on the expected deal.
Sir Robert said “technically” there doesn’t have to be a vote because the EU Withdrawal Act allows deals to have “direct effect”.
However, he said: “I think there will be some kind of vote.”
Liberal Democrat leader Ed Davey also said he hopes there will be a vote.
“He doesn’t need to take it to parliament, it’s not absolutely necessary in terms of the constitution,” he told Sky News’ Kay Burley at breakfast.
“But I think politically he needs to do it, I think most MPs, if not all MPs, and certainly voters would think it’s extraordinary for him to do this big deal and not allow the electorate to anticipate their representatives to have a say.” .