Tory MPs And DUP Pile Pressure On Rishi Sunak As Brexit Talks Stall

Hopes of a breakthrough this week are beginning to fade.
Rishi Sunak had hoped to reach a deal with the EU this week.
Rishi Sunak had hoped to reach a deal with the EU this week.
Ben Stansall via PA Wire/PA Images

Hopes of an imminent breakthrough in the latest round of Brexit talks are fading as Tory MPs and the DUP continue to pile pressure on Rishi Sunak.

The prime minister had planned to present a fresh agreement on the movement of goods between Britain and Northern Ireland early this week following intensive negotiations with Brussels.

But Downing Street admitted this morning that “no deal has been done yet” and that several outstanding issues remain to be resolved.

Further talks between foreign secretary James Cleverly and European Commission vice-president Maros Sevcovic this afternoon also broke up without agreement.

In a move which has angered many Tory MPs — including former prime minister Boris Johnson — Sunak wants to dump the Northern Ireland Protocol Bill, which gives the government the power to rip up parts of the current Brexit deal.

Eurosceptic Conservative MPs also warned Sunak that any agreement with the European Union would need to satisfy the DUP, which has set seven tests it says must be passed before they can back it.

They include the removal of the European Court of Justice’s role in overseeing any new Brexit agreement.

Labour leader Keir Starmer has said his party will support any deal Sunak makes, giving the PM the votes he needs to get it through the Commons.

But former cabinet minister Simon Clarke today warned that would be a “real problem” for Sunak.

He told Times Radio: “I very much hope clearly that a deal is agreed which does work for everybody, and everyone needs to see the text of the deal before we can start to speculate about how it will be received in the Commons.

“But look, do I think there would be a very real problem for the government were it to be a deal which didn’t carry the support of the DUP, were it to be a deal which did leave Northern Ireland subject to EU law or in the single market in some way, then I think that is just the reality of where we’re at. And no one wants this to go down that route.”

Asked how serious it would be for the PM if he could only get the deal through on the back of Labour votes, Clarke said: “I think that would be a desperately ill-advised course of action for the government and I think in fairness that they know that very well.”

DUP MP Sammy Wilson said he did not expect a deal to be done this week, and warned that his party could not support any agreement which included a role for the European courts in Northern Ireland.

He told Sky News: “We are British and we expect to be governed by British law, not Brussels law.

“We would certainly not collaborate in administering Brussels law in our part of the United Kingdom.”

The prime minister’s spokesperson said: “It’s clear that we need to find solutions that protect Northern Ireland’s place in our internal market, safeguard the Good Friday Agreement and resolve the practical issues that the Protocol is causing for families and businesses.

“The prime minister has been clear that we have not resolved all of those issues and no deal has been done as yet.”

In a further sign of the precariousness of No. 10′s position, the spokesperson also refused to say whether MPs would be given a vote on any new deal.

Following his discussions with Maros Sevcovic, James Cleverly said the pair had “agreed to talk again in the coming days” - a further sign that a deal is not on the cards this week.


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