- Written by Becky Morton and David Wallace Lockhart
- BBC Politics
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has urged his MPs not to create “another Westminster drama” as he sought to win their support for his new Brexit deal.
He asked the Conservative MP to give the DUP “time and space” to consider the deal.
The agreement with the European Union aims to address issues related to Northern Ireland’s post-Brexit trade arrangements.
Support for the DUP will be key to restoring a power-sharing government in Northern Ireland.
The party was boycotting Stormont and preventing the devolved government from functioning because of its concerns about the current arrangements for Northern Ireland.
DUP leader Sir Geoffrey Donaldson said the new deal went “somewhat” to address his party’s concerns but some issues remained.
He said the party would take some time to study the details and come to a collective decision.
On Tuesday, Mr Sunak addressed the influential 1922 committee of Tory MPs to sell his deal after the breach was unveiled in Northern Ireland the day before.
After the meeting, Northern Ireland Minister Steve Baker told reporters that the deal was “as good as we’re going to get”, indicating that the government would not reopen negotiations with the EU.
Meanwhile, the pro-Brexit Tory European Research Group (ERG), which heard from Sir Jeffrey at a meeting on Tuesday, has commissioned what they describe as a “star room” of lawyers to scrutinize the deal.
It could take about two weeks or even longer for the group’s “legal vultures” to get through it with “a very fine tooth comb,” said Marc-François, head of the ERG.
He added that it was reasonable for the prime minister to give the DUP time.
In contrast, the former Brexit secretary, David Frost, has already drawn some of his own conclusions on the Sunak deal.
Frost said the new arrangements were “overdone” and did not change the fundamentals of the Northern Ireland Protocol, which was signed by former Prime Minister Boris Johnson and entered into force in 2021.
Under Mr Sunak’s new agreement:
- Goods from Britain will move into Northern Ireland through a new ‘green lane’, with a separate ‘red lane’ for goods at risk of moving into the EU.
- Products coming into Northern Ireland via the Green Corridor will see a significant reduction in checks and paperwork, while goods with the Red Corridor will still be subject to regular checks.
- ‘Storm brakes’ allow Northern Ireland Assembly to veto ‘significantly different’ new EU rules that would apply in Northern Ireland
- Northern Ireland will no longer have to follow some EU rules, for example on value-added tax and a tax on certain drinks and goods
At his meeting with the 1922 committee Mr Sunak is understood to have told Tory MPs that he had “spent a lot of time” with Sir Geoffrey.
“I would like to say one thing to all of you: We must give it time and space to the DUP,” he said, adding that there was a “range of opinions” within the party.
“So let’s not pressure them into an immediate answer,” Sunak added.
“Let us also remember that the last thing the audience wants is another Westminster drama.”
Conservative MPs respond to Windsor frame Since its announcement on Monday it has been widely positive.
After Mr Sunak’s speech to the 1922 committee, an ally of former prime minister Boris Johnson said “he did a good job”, while a Brexiteer said the prime minister’s words were too good.
Another Tory MP, who was deeply skeptical last week that Mr Sunak could strike an acceptable deal, told the BBC they should probably “eat a humble pie” because the prime minister appeared to have done so.
The MP said negotiators had “square the circle” and that the “storm brake” mechanism, which aims to give the Northern Ireland Council a greater say in how EU laws are applied, was an innovative solution that should be welcomed.
The Windsor framework was welcomed by the nationalist party, although it said it still needed to examine the details.
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