Don’t create drama over Brexit deal, Sunak tells Tory MPs


Any resistance to the deal would not result in changes to the framework, because reopening an agreement that took months to negotiate is not seen as a workable solution…reports Asian Lite News

Conservative MPs must give the Democratic Unionist Party “time and space” to consider the new Brexit deal, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said.

Sunak said he was confident the DUP would back it as he urged colleagues not to create another “Westminster drama” after his new Windsor agreement for Northern Ireland was broadly welcomed.

But Conservatives were waiting with “bated breath” to see if the DUP would back the deal, which is hoped to restore power-sharing to Stormont after a year-long absence.

Sunak addressed Tory backbenchers at the 1922 Committee in the House of Commons on Tuesday evening, after a visit to Northern Ireland to try to shore up support.

He was understood to have told Conservative colleagues he had “spent a lot of time” with DUP leader Jeffrey Donaldson, whose party walked out of Stormont in protest at Boris Johnson’s Northern Ireland Protocol.

“And I would just say one thing to you all: we should give him and the DUP time and space,” Sunak said as he acknowledged a “spectrum of views” in the unionist party.

“So let’s not pressure them for an instant answer. Let’s also remember that the last thing the public want is another Westminster drama.”

The framework removes the protocol’s barriers on trade across the Irish Sea and hands a “veto” to politicians in Stormont on EU law — a set of concessions from Brussels that went further than many expected.

But it still includes what Sunak says is a “small and limited” role for the European Court of Justice.

Any resistance to the deal would not result in changes to the framework, because reopening an agreement that took months to negotiate is not seen as a workable solution.

With opposition parties offering support, there is little chance of it failing to receive backing in Parliament when put to a vote, so the DUP will not be effectively handed a veto over the process.

“I cannot see how we will get better than this … this is the deal,.” Northern Ireland Office minister Steve Baker said after the 1922 meeting.

The arch-Brexiteer, who helped to sink Theresa May’s premiership over her Brexit wrangling, added: “I’m really clear. There isn’t a different deal available. This is what’s been negotiated and it’s good.”

Baker said colleagues in the meeting were “clearly concerned” about whether the DUP would re-enter power-sharing after they walked out over issues including trade barriers imposed by the protocol.

But he believed the DUP will ultimately back the Windsor pact.

“People are worried about the DUP but there’s an earnest sense of relief and support,” Baker said.

“I think we all believe he’s done it but now we just wait with bated breath to see if the DUP agrees.

“I recognise this is a very difficult time for the DUP. They’ve got hard choices to make but I believe in the end they will agree with me that this is a good deal for the union in all the circumstances.”

The European Research Group (ERG) of Tory Brexiteers heard from Mr Donaldson at a meeting on Tuesday evening, when they appointed a so-called “star chamber” of lawyers to scrutinise the agreement.

ERG chairman Mark Francois said it would take “around a fortnight” for the “legal eagles” to carry out their audit.

Francois said the Prime Minister took a “steady and sensible pace” when asked if he feared Sunak would hold a vote before the group’s legal analysis was published.

Lord David Frost, who helped to negotiate the protocol, disputed Sunak’s claim that the Windsor pact meant the UK had “now taken back control”, because EU law “remains supreme”.

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