Rishi Sunak and Ursula von der Leyen announced the deal on Monday Rishi Sunak and Ursula von der Leyen announced the deal on Monday 

British PM drums up support for Northern Ireland deal

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak visited Belfast on Tuesday to drum up support for his new deal with the European Union on post-Brexit trade rules for Northern Ireland, calling the deal a huge step forward for the people of Northern Ireland.

By Susy Hodges

Britain’s Prime Minister has hailed the new deal on trade rules for Northern Ireland as a decisive breakthrough that would pave the way for a new chapter in Britain’s relationship with the EU.

The 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.

The UK government agreed to the protocol before it left the EU but now says the rules are unworkable.

Removing ‘border’ within UK

Speaking at a joint news conference on Monday with the European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said the two sides had agreed to remove "any sense of a border" between Britain and Northern Ireland—a situation that had upset politicians on both sides.

The agreement marks a high-risk strategy for Mr. Sunak just four months after he took office.

He is looking to secure improved relations with the EU—without angering the most strongly Eurosceptic wing of his ruling Conservative party.

A key provision in the new deal is the so-called "Stormont brake". Mr. Sunak says this brake would allow Stormont—the regional assembly—to stop any "changes to EU goods rules that would have significant and lasting effects on everyday lives". He said that would give London a veto on new rules.

Convicing NI unionists

The deal’s success 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 known as the Good Friday Agreement, which mostly ended three decades of sectarian and political violence in Northern Ireland.

The issue of Northern Ireland has been one of the most contentious regarding Britain's 2020 departure from the European Union.

A return to a hard border between the province and Ireland, an EU member, could have jeopardised the peace deal.

However, it remains to be seen whether the new terms will go far enough to end the political deadlock in Northern Ireland.

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28 February 2023, 14:44