Rishi Sunak has outlined the final “three boxes” of Brexit deal that need to be “ticked” in order to secure a deal with the EU. Mr Sunak is desperately attempting to renegotiate the Northern Ireland Protocol after ongoing issues with the deal. Speaking at Prime Minister’s Questions, Mr Sunak said the Government is “still in active discussions with the European Union”.
The Prime Minister said he is a “Conservative, a Brexiteer and a Unionist”, adding that “any agreements that we reach needs to take all three boxes.”
Mr Sunak said a deal would “need to ensure sovereignty for Northern Ireland”, need to act as a “safeguard Northern Ireland’s place in our union” and it needs to “find practical solutions to the problems faced by people and businesses”.
Addressing Sir Keir Starmer – who asked about the proposed EU deal – the Prime Minister added: “I will be resolute in fighting for what is best for Northern Ireland and the United Kingdom.”
The Prime Minister has been warned that he may face resignations over the deal, as right-wing factions of the Tory party are concerned the deal could give too much away to the EU.
The Democratic Unionist Party – which has been been staging a boycott of the Stormont Assembly since February 2021 – has also expressed concern that the deal will not go far enough to correct issues with the protocol.
DUP leader Jeffrey Donaldson told MPs at PMQs that the current situation in Northern Ireland is “unacceptable”, calling for the PM to “rewrite” the Protocol entirely, rather than just “tweaking” the deal.
He asked: “Does the Prime Minister accept how important the constitutional and democratic issues are in relation to getting a solution and will he agree with me that it is unacceptable that EU laws are imposed on Northern Ireland with no democratic scrutiny or consent? And will he assure me that he will address these fundamental constitutional issues and do so not just by tweaking the protocol, but by rewriting the legally binding treaty text?”
In response, Mr Sunak said he had “heard loud and clear when he says he wants to see these issues resolved”.
He added: “Addressing the democratic deficit is an essential part of the negotiations that remain ongoing with the European Union. And just as he has been consistent, so have I and I can assure him that this is at the very heart of the issues that must be addressed.”
Answering questions on the deal in the Commons, Mr Suank also indicated that MPs will get a vote on the deal, saying: “Of course parliament will express its view.”
The Government was expected to announce a deal yesterday, but it is thought that progress has stalled as a result of opposition from the ERG and DUP.
The ERG met at 6pm last night with Mr Donaldson to urgently discuss the proposed deal.
While Mr Donaldson, speaking after the meeting, heralded Mr Sunak for having made “progress” with the deal, he admitted the Government has “a long way to go”.
He confirmed a major sticking point for the DUP is that goods produced in Northern Ireland that are destined for the internal market must be governed by UK law.
But firing a warning shot after the meeting – which appeared to be conciliatory in tone – an ERG source told the Daily Express: “No10 thought that the DUP and ERG would be all bark and no bite. How wrong they were!”
ERG leader Mark Francois said MPs would “like to find a way through”.
However, he noted that neither the ERG nor the DUP had seen any details of the deal, something which is understood to have frustrated members of the Tory party.