Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said he’s determined to reach an agreement with the European Union to eliminate “serious barriers to trade” in Northern Ireland, but wouldn’t sign on to a plan that doesn’t resolve lingering problems from the original Brexit deal.
“My job is to seize this opportunity, confront the hard choices, and give everything I’ve got,” Sunak wrote in an opinion piece in the Telegraph. “And I promise you this: I won’t agree any deal which doesn’t fix the problems and deliver for Northern Ireland and our precious Union.”
The UK leader is holding talks through the weekend with cabinet ministers, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party, as he seeks to resolve an impasse over the contentious Northern Ireland Protocol that governs the region’s post-Brexit trade, people familiar with the matter said. A deal could be announced this week, the people said.
In his op-ed, Sunak laid out three main issues that need to be resolved:
Trade must be able to flow freely within the UK’s internal market, including Northern Ireland, which shares an island with the Republic of Ireland, an EU member.
Northern Ireland’s place in the United Kingdom must be respected. The EU must not be allowed to impose new laws and regulations on Northern Ireland without the consent of its people and institutions.
Sunak is attempting to end a standoff with the EU that’s poisoned relations with Britain’s biggest trading partner since it left the bloc three years ago.
But in doing so, he’s likely to face criticism from unionists and Tory Brexiteers that the new deal would maintain EU law and a role for the European Court of Justice in Northern Ireland, something the rebels say threatens the region’s place in the UK.