Rishi Sunak admits there’s ‘still work to do’ on crunch Brexit deal: PM says Northern Ireland Protocol deal with the EU is ‘by no means done’
- Mr Sunak made the comment at the Munich Security Conference earlier today
- READ MORE: Sunak kicks off Munich summit with rallying cry to NATO allies
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has said a deal with the European Union on the Northern Ireland Protocol is ‘by no means done’.
Speaking at the Munich Security Conference, Germany, Mr Sunak downplayed the idea that a deal might have been made to end years of deadlock over Northern Ireland.
It comes as the UK Government is expected to announce a new agreement on post-Brexit trade rules for Northern Ireland early next week.
But Mr Sunak said there was ‘still work to do’ and ‘we are by no means done’ with issues still needing to be resolved.
Speaking at the Munich Security Conference, Germany, Mr Sunak downplayed the idea that a deal might have been made to end years of deadlock over post-Brexit trading rules
Mr Sunak met European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen behind closed doors on the fringes of the Munich Security Conference today as he seeks to secure a deal aimed at breaking the impasse over the contentious post-Brexit trading arrangements
The Prime Minister said: ‘There are real issues that need resolving. The way that the protocol has been implemented, it’s causing very real challenges for families, for people, for businesses on the ground.
‘We’re engaging in those conversations with the European Union all the time and we have been for a while, but what I’d say is there is still work to do.
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‘There are still challenges to work through. We have not resolved all these issues. No, there isn’t a deal that has been done, there is an understanding of what needs to be done.’
He added: ‘We’re working through the issues and we will work through them intensely with the EU, but we are by no means done.’
Mr Sunak met European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen behind closed doors on the fringes of the Munich Security Conference on Saturday as he seeks to secure a deal aimed at breaking the impasse over the contentious post-Brexit trading arrangements.
It comes after Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar expressed his hope for a positive outcome to negotiations between the UK and EU after a briefing call from European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.
The Irish Government said the Taoiseach expressed his strong wish to see a ‘positive outcome that provides a new foundation for relations between the EU and the UK’.
It continued: ‘Most importantly, he hoped for an agreement that can pave the way for restoration of the institutions under the Good Friday Agreement. ‘They agreed to stay in close touch in coming days as matters progress.’
Mr Sunak added: ‘The UK may have left the European Union. It didn’t leave Europe. We are a European nation. I talked in my speech about our commitment to European security.
‘Of course, we want to have a positive constructive relationship with our European partners, neighbours, allies, individually, but also with the EU.’
He said that desire was evident in the response to the Ukraine war, sanctions against Russia, illegal migration and energy security.
‘Those are some of the very real practical things that we are currently engaged on.
‘That is, I think, a sign of progress and a welcome and positive development.’
What is the Northern Ireland Protocol?
During negotiations the EU and UK agreed a Northern Ireland Protocol that there would be no new checks on goods crossing the border between NI and the Republic of Ireland (ROI).
The protocol aims to:
– Avoid a hard border between NI and the ROI
– Ensure the integrity of the EU’s single market for goods
– Facilitate unfettered access for NI goods to the GB market, and the inclusion of NI goods in free trade agreements between the UK and third countrie
As a result of the protocol, NI has in effect remained in the EU’s single market for goods (England, Scotland and Wales have left the EU’s single market for goods).
This allows goods to flow to and from NI to the ROI and the rest of the EU as they did while the UK was a member of the EU, without customs checks, tariffs or new paperwork.
But it has caused controversy in Northern Ireland’s devolved legislature with unionist parties arguing that placing an effective trade border across the Irish Sea undermines Northern Ireland’s place within the UK.
The largest of those parties is the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), which refuses to take part in Northern Ireland’s power-sharing government unless its concerns are resolved.
But a majority of members of the Northern Ireland Assembly are in favour of the protocol in some form remaining in place.
Sinn Féin, the Alliance Party and the SDLP have said improvements to the protocol are needed to ease its implementation.
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