Daily Mail

PM: I could press on without DUP

Rishi tells the Unionists: This new Brexit deal’s the way forward

- By Jason Groves

RISHI Sunak yesterday warned leaders of the Democratic Unionist Party that he will press ahead with his new Northern Ireland deal even if they reject it.

Speaking on a visit to the province, the Prime Minister said he was ‘over the moon’ after striking the Brexit deal with Brussels which will end EU checks on most British goods arriving in Ulster.

He said he believed ‘hand on heart’ that the agreement would address the concerns of the DUP, which pulled out of the powershari­ng process last year in protest at the operation of the Northern Ireland Protocol.

But he warned that the deal would be put in place even if the party continues its yearlong boycott of the Northern Ireland Assembly at Stormont. Mr Sunak said: ‘We’ve put more power in the hands of Stormont – in those very people. But they need to get back in... so they can use those powers.

‘We’ve provided the means now and I hope that, with time and space, they will see that that’s the right way forward.’

Foreign Secretary James Cleverly stressed that there was little prospect of the deal being reopened, even if the DUP objects. He said: ‘We don’t want to change this. It is a finely balanced document. We have got the European Commission to move a very, very long way from their starting point. We really value their engagement and their willingnes­s to be flexible to help resolve some of the outstandin­g issues. We don’t want them to start changing things back again.’

on a visit to a Coca-Cola factory in Lisburn, the PM said the deal would create ‘the world’s most exciting economic zone’ with access to EU and UK markets.

He added: ‘If we get this right, if we get this framework implemente­d, if we get the Executive back up and running here, Northern Ireland is in the unbelievab­ly special position – unique position in the entire world – in having privileged access, not just to the UK home market, which is enormous, but also the European Union single market. Nobody else has that. No one.’

the PM said foreign companies were ‘queuing up’ to invest in the province after the tensions with the EU have been resolved.

DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson acknowledg­ed that ‘progress has been made’, adding that Mr Sunak’s plans go ‘some way’ to addressing concerns, in particular a planned new ‘Stormont Brake’ giving Northern Ireland a veto over the imposition of new EU laws.

But he said his party needed more time to go through the detailed legal text before reaching a verdict.

the deal aims to tackle post-Brexit problems that have hit Northern Ireland which was effectivel­y left in the EU’s single market in order to avoid creating a hard border with the Irish Republic. A new ‘green lane’ will allow most goods arriving in Northern Ireland from the rest of the UK to avoid EU checks.

Last night former Brexit Secretary Lord Frost said the Windsor framework as a ‘bitter pill to swallow’.

Writing in the Daily telegraph, the tory peer, who helped negotiate the Northern Ireland Protocol, accused Mr Sunak of ‘overclaimi­ng’ the deal removes any sense of a border in Irish Sea, adding: ‘It is not obvious that this new deal changes this basic structure, only how it is applied.’ nNorthern Ireland minister of state Steve Baker held back tears on tV as he told how Britain’s fraught exit from the EU gave him a ‘major mental health crisis’, suffering anxiety and depression. the self- styled ‘Brexit hardman’ told BBC’s Newsnight he found himself ‘in a ball crying in my office’ in 2021.

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