Northern Ireland Brexit Deal Might Not Be Brokered This Week, Minister Suggests

Maria Caulfield said Rishi Sunak needs “time” amid reports that ministers are prepared to resign.
Minister Maria Caulfield
Minister Maria Caulfield
Sky News

Rishi Sunak might not get a new Northern Ireland Brexit deal this week, a minister has suggested.

Maria Caulfield urged Tory Brexiteers to give the prime minister “time and space” to “thrash out” a Northern Ireland Protocol deal.

It follows interventions from Boris Johnson and rumblings of a potential rebellion from Tory backbenchers.

Sunak reportedly spent several hours in his Commons office yesterday talking to Eurosceptic critics about his deal in a bid to address their concerns.

Despite high hopes that a deal would be struck this week, Caulfield told Sky News: “I don’t know about this week, I know that the prime minister is working really hard and working with a number of politicians from across Northern Ireland, politicians within the EU, to try and resolve this.”

What Is The Northern Ireland Protocol?

It is a trading arrangement, negotiated during Brexit talks, to allow goods to be transported across the Irish land border without the need for checks.

The deal was aimed at protecting the delicate Good Friday Agreement and to avoid putting up a hard border between NI and the Republic.

However, unionist parties argue that the protocol instead places an effective border across the Irish Sea, undermining Northern Ireland’s place within the UK.

NI’s largest unionist party, the DUP, is refusing to take part in the power-sharing government unless its concerns are resolved.

Mental health minister Caulfield also urged colleagues to support the PM, telling Times Radio: “There isn’t a deal done yet so all these rumours about ministers or MPs not being happy, I haven’t seen the details, we have to give the prime minister that time and space to get these negotiations done. We need to give him the time and space to thrash out the final elements of any final deal.”

Sunak is having to contend with the demands of both Conservative MPs and Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) over any agreement.

Some ministers could be prepared to resign if Sunak’s solution to the protocol risks the place of Northern Ireland within the UK, according to The Times.

There are hopes that a fresh deal will secure the return of powersharing at the Stormont Assembly, after the DUP walked out in protest at the protocol last February.

Focus has also turned to the fate of the Northern Ireland Protocol Bill, which is currently stalled in the Lords and would allow ministers to override parts of the protocol, after Johnson called on ministers to press on with legislation.

Sunak is preparing to drop the bill in favour of a renegotiated deal. However, home secretary Suella Braverman described it as “one of the biggest tools that we have in solving the problem on the Irish Sea”.

Keir Starmer has urged Sunak to allow the Commons to have its say on any final deal, offering Labour support to secure the approval of any new agreement in the event of any Tory rebellion.


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