Sunak pitches new Brexit vision to Northern Ireland and his lawmakers

March 2, 2023 6:01 am

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak was in Northern Ireland and then met with his own lawmakers to sell his new deal with the European Union to ease post-Brexit trade, a measure he hopes will finally break the political deadlock in the province.

Sunak is trying to secure the backing of all sides in Northern Ireland and eurosceptic lawmakers so he can reset relations with the EU – and the United States – without angering politicians in his own party and in Belfast who are most wedded to Britain’s 2020 departure from the EU.

His deal seeks to resolve the tensions caused by the Northern Ireland protocol, a complex agreement which set the trading rules for the British-governed region that London agreed before it left the EU, but now says are unworkable.

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In order to keep open the politically sensitive border with EU-member Ireland, Northern Ireland remained in the EU single market for goods, raising the prospect it would slowly diverge from the rest of the United Kingdom, fuelling fears in unionist communities.

Sunak said his agreement, the Windsor Framework, would bolster the union, scrap rules that affected everything from the import of sausages to sandwiches, and give lawmakers on the ground a greater say over the rules and regulations they take from EU headquarters in Brussels.

The success of the deal is likely to hinge on whether it convinces the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) to end its boycott of Northern Ireland’s power-sharing arrangements. These were central to the 1998 peace deal which mostly ended three decades of sectarian and political violence in Northern Ireland.