Politics

DUP says new Brexit deal doesn’t address ‘fundamental problems’ with Northern Ireland Protocol

Rishi Sunak’s new Brexit deal for Northern Ireland doesn’t address the “fundamental problems” with the protocol it is intended to replace, the DUP has said.

The unionist party has released a fresh assessment of the Windsor Framework ahead of a crunch vote in the House of Commons on Wednesday.

While it is not an official verdict on whether they will back the agreement, the DUP’s statement said “there is more work to do” to tackle issues that led to the collapse of powersharing in Stormont.

A spokesperson for the DUP said: “The Windsor Framework does not deal with some of the fundamental problems at the heart of our current difficulties.

“The government has framed this debate on Wednesday as an overall endorsement of the framework.

“It is our current assessment that there remain key areas of concern which require further clarification, re-working and change as well as seeing further legal text.

“We will continue our engagement with the government and urge the prime minister to take the time to get this right rather than rushing through a deal that doesn’t address all the core issues.”

The DUP is currently blocking devolution at Stormont in protest at the terms of the Northern Ireland Protocol agreed by Boris Johnson under his “oven ready” Brexit deal.

Mr Johnson has already signalled he might not vote for the Windsor Framework in parliament, which could influence other Tory MPs.

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Johnson: ‘Difficult to vote for Brexit deal’

The Protocol was designed to prevent a hard border from being reintroduced on the island of Ireland but led to trade barriers being created between Great Britain and NI – effectively creating a customs border down the Irish sea.

The Windsor Framework struck by Rishi Sunak last month aims to address the key issues by removing red tape on goods and giving local politicians more of a say on EU rules that remain in the region.

However, the DUP’s support is crucial for powersharing to be restored in Northern Ireland, which has been left without a functioning government for more than a year.

After weeks of scrutinising the deal, the party’s statement is not the only sign of discontent.

Deal ‘doesn’t cut the mustard’

On Monday senior DUP MP Ian Paisley said he will vote against the government in the vote this week and suggested his colleagues would follow suit.

He said the framework “did not cut the mustard” when it came to the seven tests the DUP say must be passed for them to back a deal and return to government.

“I am categorically voting against, and I would be surprised if my colleagues do not join me,” he told The News Letter.

“After taking time to study it and at least one legal opinion on it, and going through the details, and also having conversations and messages back and forward to the Secretary of State, I am still of that opinion – that it doesn’t address any of our seven tests.

“It is the old substance dressed up in a new package with a ribbon around it, but it hasn’t actually changed, or addressed the fundamental issue of Northern Ireland trade being disrupted in our internal UK market.”

The comments could spell trouble for Mr Sunak, with many Tory Eurosceptics waiting to see what the DUP says about the framework before deciding whether to back the government.

Wednesday’s vote will be on a statutory instrument to implement the Stormont brake – which Downing Street sees as the most “significant part” of the agreement.

The mechanism would allow a minority of MLAs at Stormont to formally flag concerns about the imposition of new EU laws in Northern Ireland – a move that could see the UK government veto their introduction in the region.

Read more:
Leo Varadkar: ‘Important to listen to DUP concerns’ over deal
Windsor Framework: What role will EU rules continue to play in NI?

Minister ‘confident vote will succeed’

The government has pitched the brake as a solution to the so-called “democratic deficit” Eurosceptics say has arisen as a result of NI being subject to Brussels’ rules so it can trade freely with the Republic of Ireland.

On Sunday, Cabinet Office minister Oliver Dowden told Sky News’ Sophy Ridge: “I’m confident the vote will succeed and pass, and I hope we will do so with the support of the DUP but ultimately that is for them.”

Labour has also said it will vote in favour of the regulations on Wednesday.

Speaking after Mr Dowden, shadow communities secretary Lisa Nandy said: “I think it’s a step forward and we will support a step forward.

“Rishi Sunak is prepared to go and start cleaning up some of his own mess, we’re certainly not going to criticise him for that and there’s no question that this is something that is now urgent.

“It’s incredibly important and trying to remove some of that friction, some of those barriers on the island of Ireland, has long been our priority.”

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