Can Rishi Sunak keep faith with Northern Ireland AND the EU over Brexit?

Prime Minister’s Questions was dominated by the question of whether Rishi Sunak has been able to negotiate a deal – to replace the controversial Northern Ireland Protocol of the Brexit agreement – that will be acceptable to everyone.

I think we all know the answer to that already!

The current situation creates an artificial trade border in the Irish Sea, meaning that goods going into and out of Northern Ireland are treated as though they are still going into and out of the European Union; this is to ensure that the border between NI and the Irish Republic remains open in accordance with the Good Friday Agreement.

The problem is that the Democratic Unionist Party says this is an insult to United Kingdom sovereignty and Northern Ireland should enjoy exactly the same privileges (and disadvantages) as the rest of the UK.

It is the second-largest party in the Northern Ireland Assembly at Stormont, and should therefore be part of the power-sharing government there – but its members won’t take their seats until the situation is resolved, so NI does not currently have a working devolved Assembly.

The DUP’s case has been taken up by hard Brexiters in Rishi Sunak’s Conservative Party at Westminster, and it has been suggested that some Cabinet members may resign if any deal allows the European Union continued power over trade in Ulster.

To complicate matters further, Labour’s Keir Starmer has offered to support a deal brought forward by Sunak, in order to make it possible for him to get it past any dissenters.

Sunak and other Tories have pointed out that this is giving him a “blank cheque”, and tantamount to supporting continued EU power in NI.

Sunak himself has been accused of weakness because he is perceived to be bullied by the hard-Brexiteers in his party.

What’s the solution? It’s hard to tell. But here’s the debate – both in Parliament and (twice) in the BBC’s Politics Live studio.

I was live-tweeting at the time and have inserted my comments into the discussion to provide extra information.

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One Comment

  1. El Dee February 22, 2023 at 7:43 pm - Reply

    The DUP do not represent the majority opinion on Brexit in NI. Most didn’t vote for Brexit and most didn’t vote for DUP. Even those who did only did so due to ingrained religious hatred rather than agreeing with their policy of intransigence on Brexit. They supported Brexit (but couldn’t even convince all of their own voters) only in the hope that it would result in a hard border with ROI. I can’t think why their view (and not the view of the majority in NI) is given precedence. And now the ERG are joining forces with these extremists this saga will run on for years to come..

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