The new agreement between the United Kingdom and the EU on Northern Ireland may not be the success that the prime minister hopes | beth rigby | Political news

After two years of deadlock and much bad blood between London and Brussels and the Conservative government and the DUP, Rishi Sunak has tried to grab the nettle and break the deadlock.

That cul-de-sac has bedeviled relations between the UK and the EU and hampered a power-sharing deal in Northern Ireland.

It is the boldest move of his tenure, and it is fraught with danger.

Follow live updates on the new post-Brexit deal

Take it out and this is a very emboldened embattled PM.

If he fails, Sunak could see his premiership sag under the weight of the Brexiteer rebellions, a Boris Johnson revival and ongoing tensions in Northern Ireland.

Where it became clear that Sunak had won on Monday was in Brussels.

The bonhomie between the Prime Minister and the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, was evident.

The prime minister called this a “new chapter” in EU-UK relations. while Ms von der Leyen, perhaps thinking of her old adversary Boris Johnson, said they had come out of these negotiations with a “stronger EU-UK relationship” and praised Mr Sunak’s “very constructive attitude from the beginning to solve problems”.

A new beginning, with a new approach, resulted in genuine gains with the EU moving in a way that many thought was not possible.

Sunak won concessions that many Brexit watchers thought were not possible months ago when Johnson conceived the Northern Ireland Protocol Bill to unilaterally annul post-Brexit trade agreements between Northern Ireland and Great Britain (a bill now discarded).

The new agreement has an unchecked “green lane” for goods crossing the Irish Sea bound for Northern Ireland, while a “red lane” would be used for goods continuing to Ireland and the EU single market. .

The prime minister also said the deal would end the situation where food made to UK standards could not be shipped or sold in Northern Ireland.

Under the new deal, Northern Ireland would have the same goods, drink and medicine as the rest of the UK: “We have removed any sense of border in the Irish Sea.”

It also rewrites part of the existing protocol to allow Westminster to set VAT rates in Northern Ireland.

The deal also sought to address the “democratic deficit” that has so angered unionists that they will not accept being treated differently from the rest of the UK and has resulted in the suspension of power-sharing assembly in Northern Ireland.

Use the Chrome browser for a more accessible video player

‘Some issues of concern’ in the new NI agreement

Read more:
Prime Minister presents ‘Windsor Framework’ agreement on Brexit

What is the Northern Ireland Protocol?
What are the seven tests of the DUP?

On Monday, the Prime Minister unveiled the “Stormont brake” which sought to address the issue of Northern Ireland being subject to EU property laws.

Under a new arrangement, the Stormont assembly will be able to oppose the new rules if a total of 30 members from at least two parties decide to activate the brake.

Sunak said it was a “powerful new safeguard based on intercommunal consent.”

The question is whether the cross-community vote, which requires a majority of unionists and Irish nationalists, rather than a direct majority vote, will be enough to satisfy the DUP.

And while the prime minister told lawmakers the deal scrapped 1,700 pages of EU law and “makes it clear that we’ve now taken back control,” officials also conceded the Windsor Framework doesn’t scrap law the EU or the jurisdiction of the European courts of Northern Ireland. .

And the key question in all this is will the prime minister’s gamble to grab the nettle pay off? He has clearly won over Brussels and Ms von der Leyen, but now he has far more thorny characters to bring on board, and the outcome is still far from certain.

Unsurprisingly, the DUP is playing their cards close to their chest as we expected them to.

DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson said that while “significant progress” had been made, “there is no hiding the fact that in some sectors of our economy EU law still applies” and said the DUP now he would carefully study the details of the agreement.

Unionists are also awaiting legal advice and a verdict from the European Research Group’s ‘star chamber’ of lawyers, who will look closely at this deal as they did the Theresa May and Boris Johnson deal to see if this deal restores British sovereignty.

A lot depends on what the trade unionists decide.

As a veteran Brexiteer told me this week, it would be “rude” for a Tory MP not to back a deal if the DUP is satisfied.

Sunak certainly won over some of his Brexit supporters today.

Use the Chrome browser for a more accessible video player

‘Critical moment for Rishi Sunak’

One senior figure told me: “It looks pretty good and it’s better than I expected,” while Northern Ireland Secretary and Brexiteer Chris Heaton-Harris and Northern Ireland Minister Steve Baker urged his colleagues to support the agreement.

“I would resign if I felt I couldn’t support the deal. So, you know, I’m backing this with a good heart,” Baker told Sky News on Monday night.

But there are also rumors that this might not be the success Sunak hopes for.

When I asked one of the main Brexiteers how significant it was that fellow travelers Heaton-Harris and Baker were satisfied, they replied that they are both “just sellers” and that it was the ERG’s job to analyze this text.

“A quick reading makes it clear that the EU and the CJEU apply to this deal,” the senior conservative said, adding that the threshold for the Stormont blockade was too high.

“This is like a budget. It sounds good from day one until the details start to unravel it.”

As for Johnson, he’s also biding his time to see how this deal absorbs. Sources close to him say that the former prime minister “continues to study and reflect on the government’s proposals.”

No 10 is delighted with how the day has gone, with a senior figure telling me “it couldn’t have gone better”.

This is a watershed moment that could prove to be a breakthrough not only in restoring power sharing in Northern Ireland, but also in restoring relations with the EU and Sunak’s premiership.

So far, he has been a disappointing prime minister who has failed to impress his party or the public. Do this and you could have that honeymoon he missed when he was presented with the crown last fall.

What is clear is that Sunak needs something momentous to go from a caretaker prime minister ranking number 10 to a credible one who has at least a chance to turn around the fortunes of the Tories before the 2024 election.

He and his team know that finally threading the Brexit needle where those that came before it failed would be a very good start.

The question is, will his enemies let him?

Leave a Comment