LONDON: Britain is on the cusp of a deal with the European Union to try to ease trade and political disruption in Northern Ireland caused by Brexit, but it is unclear whether it will be enough to satisfy eurosceptic critics.

More than a year of stop-start and sometimes rancorous negotiations between London and Brussels on an overhaul of part of the 2020 EU exit deal look to be coming to a conclusion with Prime Minister Rishi Sunak saying he was “giving it everything” to get a deal done.

“We’re on the cusp, we’ve made great progress, we’re not there yet,” Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab told the BBC.

The BBC later reported, citing unnamed sources, that a headline announcement could come on Sunday with details to follow on Monday. Sunak’s office did not confirm those reports.

Britain on cusp of deal, but concerns remain

Even if agreed with Brussels, the announcement of a deal is likely to be only the start.

Key players in Northern Ireland have set a high bar for the kind of deal they would support.

As part of its exit agreement, Britain signed an accord with Brussels known as the Northern Ireland protocol to avoid imposing politically contentious checks along the 500km land border with EU member Ireland. But the protocol effectively created a border for some goods moving from Britain because it kept Northern Ireland in the EU’s single market for goods.

In an interview with the Sunday Times, Sunak said the shooting of a police officer in Northern Ireland last week was a reminder of the fragility of the situation there.

Raab said the deal would address trade tensions by easing the physical checks on goods that were demanded by the EU under the original agreement. He also said the deal hoped to address concerns that the EU can set rules for Northern Ireland that cannot be influenced by the region’s voters and politicians.

“If there any new rules that would apply in relation to Northern Ireland, it must be right that there’s a Northern Irish democratic check on that,” he said.

But he stopped short of saying European courts would no longer have a say in Northern Ireland. That has been a key demand of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), which is currently refusing to enter a new power-sharing arrangement in Northern Ireland.

The Sunday Times said Sunak was confident the deal met those conditions, but that DUP party leader Jeffrey Donaldson was “minded to reject the deal”.

Without DUP approval, Northern Ireland could remain without a devolved government, meaning one of the main aims of Sunak’s renegotiation has failed.

Published in Dawn, February 27th, 2023

Opinion

On writing

On writing

There is no ceremony or ritual that marks any person as a writer except the simple yet unimaginably significant act of starting to write.

Editorial

A way forward
Updated 17 Jul, 2024

A way forward

Before political leaders inflict more damage, they must give talks a chance.
Export delusions
Updated 18 Jul, 2024

Export delusions

Plummeting exports as a ratio of GDP is one of the major reasons driving the current economic slowdown and the balance-of-payments crisis.
Diversity in UK politics
17 Jul, 2024

Diversity in UK politics

THE recent UK elections have ushered in the most diverse parliament in the nation’s history. Under the leadership...
Banning PTI
Updated 16 Jul, 2024

Banning PTI

It appears that the govt and its backers within the establishment have still not realised that they are in uncharted territory.
Nato at 75
16 Jul, 2024

Nato at 75

EMERGING from the ashes of World War II, and locked in confrontation with the Soviet-led Communist bloc for over ...
Non-stop massacres
16 Jul, 2024

Non-stop massacres

Netanyahu is cunningly pretending to talk peace while mercilessly pounding Gaza. What is clear is that a return to pre-Oct 7 status quo is impossible.