Boris Johnson 'could make first comments on Brexit deal TODAY'

Boris Johnson ‘could make first comments on Brexit deal TODAY’ amid DUP meltdown with hardliners saying it does NOT meet the party’s tests – but former leader warning rejecting the plan could put unionism in ‘peril’

Boris Johnson could make his first comments on Rishi Sunak’s Brexit deal today – amid DUP infighting over whether to back it.

The former PM is giving a speech in Westminster later where he could address the new Northern Ireland settlement.

There are claims Mr Johnson will be critical of some elements, although he is likely to hold off declaring whether Mr Sunak will have his support in votes expected this month.

The intervention comes as tensions rise in the DUP, after leader Jeffrey Donaldson said he would take time to consider the details of the package – potentially even until after local elections in May.

Ex-leader Peter Robinson said rejecting the deal would put the DUP on ‘perilous ground’, although he suggested ‘a better deal could be attained in the future’.

However, DUP chief whip Sammy Wilson said it was ‘not a great deal’, arguing that the new ‘Stormont Brake’ might never be used to block the introduction of future EU laws in the province. 

Former deputy leader Lord Dodds said the pact keeps the border down the Irish Sea and does not guarantee free trade with mainland Britain.

Boris Jonhons (right) is giving a speech in Westminster later where he could address the new Northern Ireland settlement struck by Rishi Sunak (left)

The government is hoping the new arrangements can help restore powersharing at Stormont

A report set to be published today by a group backed by DUP MP Ian Paisley is also expected to say the agreement does not meet the DUP’s seven tests. 

Mr Johnson has been ‘studying and reflecting on the Government’s proposals’ since the deal was published on Monday. 

Downing Street said the two men had had a ‘good discussion’ when the PM briefed Mr Johnson on the outline of the deal at the weekend.

Tory MPs have overwhelmingly backed Mr Sunak’s plan, with a number of prominent Eurosceptics including David Davis, Liam Fox and Andrea Leadsom hailing it as a diplomatic coup. It claims to remove all trace of a border in the Irish Sea, bring the province back under UK tax rules, and give Stormont powers to block new EU rules.

But the European Research Group of Tory MPs has said its ‘star chamber’ of lawyers will need two weeks to comb through the fine print.

And Unionist sources have suggested the DUP may take months to deliver a verdict. It walked out of power-sharing last year in protest at the impact of the Northern Ireland Protocol.

Ministers want to press ahead with implementing the deal, which has ‘real world benefits’ for Northern Ireland, and have pencilled in a possible vote the week after the Budget, which takes place on March 15. 

Lord Dodds’ comments about the Windsor Framework are likely to cause concern in Downing Street, which hoped the agreement would restore powersharing at Stormont.

DUP leader Jeffrey Donaldson said he will take time to consider the details of the package

There was also criticism by Baroness Hoey, a Northern Irish Brexit supporter and former Labour MP, who argued Mr Sunak had ‘over-egged’ the deal and was treating people like they were ‘stupid’.

Speaking in Parliament Lord Dodds said: ‘The construction of these border control posts at each of our ports in Northern Ireland is being done because the controls cover not just goods being moved from Great Britain into the EU via the Irish Republic as some of the spin would suggest.

‘They are being constructed because companies wishing to trade with Northern Ireland from Great Britain must still fulfil European requirements, including a level of checks.

‘Great Britain is still treated as a third country as far as Northern Ireland is concerned under the new arrangements.’

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