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Hopes of Northern Ireland Brexit deal rise as Rishi Sunak seeks unionist backing

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Unionist politicians welcome progress towards resolving bitter trade disputes in Northern Ireland after Brexit.

The British prime minister will visit Belfast and gain support for the outline agreement from local politicians, particularly the Democratic Unionist Party, which boycotted the local council over provisions of the so-called Northern Ireland Protocol.

DUP leader Sir Geoffrey Donaldson said “progress has been made” in resolving a dispute that has soured relations between the UK and the EU for about three years, emerging from negotiations.

“It is fair to say that progress has been made in a number of areas, although there are still some areas that need further work,” added Donaldson.

Sunak met with DUP leaders at the five-star Culloden Hotel to lay the groundwork for an agreement aimed at reducing border checks on trade from the UK into the region and improving strained relations between the UK and the EU. Got ready.

Donaldson called for the EU to “enlarge itself” and make further concessions, and UK officials said negotiations with the EU were ongoing. However, the choreography will be announced next week.

Mary Lou Macdonald, leader of the nationalist Sinn Fein party, said after meeting with Snak:

In a sign that a deal is imminent, the EU called diplomats from 27 member states to a briefing in Brussels on Friday.

British Foreign Secretary James Cleverley was also in Brussels for a meeting with European Commission Vice-President Maroš Shevchovic. Sunak is then scheduled to meet with his EU leaders, including the commission’s chairman, Ursula von der Leyen, at the Munich Security Conference on Saturday.

Sunak hopes to sign an agreement with the cabinet next Tuesday before submitting documents on the matter to parliament, but is expected to face serious opposition from euroskeptic Tory lawmakers. ing.

The first big test for the UK prime minister will be to convince the DUP to accept the deal and end the boycott that has paralyzed Northern Ireland’s parliament and government. Donaldson said the party had become clearer, but needed time to evaluate the new deal.

British Foreign Secretary James Cleverley (left) and European Commission Vice-President Maroš Shevchovic meet in Brussels © Kenzo Tribouillard/AFP/Getty Images

Sunak’s outline agreement creates a ‘green lane’ in Irish Sea ports that minimizes checks on goods that remain within Northern Ireland, and a ‘red lane’ that allows goods destined for Ireland and the EU single market. will be processed.

This would amend Boris Johnson’s 2019 Brexit deal, which kept Northern Ireland as part of the EU’s single market for goods.

The agreement eliminates the need for any checks on trade moving across open borders with Ireland. However, the DUP and local businesses objected to the new checks on trade from the UK and Northern Ireland, arguing it would amount to the UK’s internal trade border.

Sunak confident his outline deal will be met “Seven Trials” It was set by the DUP on issues such as circumventing new regulatory boundaries between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK and preventing trade diversion.

However, some Tory MPs and DUP MPs were unable to accept the European Court of Justice’s continued role in the Northern Ireland issue, and the issue remains open to consensus.

A senior Whitehall official said that while the ECJ issue is of little concern to the public and businesses of Northern Ireland, the issue of sovereignty is a big one for Tory MPs and some DUP MPs.

Nationalist SDLP party leader Colum Eastwood said the Belfast meeting was “part of the choreography to make a deal”, adding: It can never hurt. “

Snak’s hopes of keeping backbench euroskeptics on board were reinforced by the involvement of Brexit and Northern Ireland loyal secretary Chris Heaton Harris in the Belfast talks.

Number 10 also hopes Johnson won’t be behind the Brexit rebels.

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