Britain’s Prime Minister Rishi Sunak is reported to be close to sealing a new Brexit deal with the European Union that aims to resolve tensions around issues with the Northern Ireland Protocol.

Cabinet ministers were due to hold a conference call on the terms of a deal, according to The Times newspaper, and members of Parliament have been instructed to attend the House of Commons on Monday, amid reports a pact was at the “presentation” stage after Sunak spoke with Ursula von der Leyen, the European Commission president, on Friday.

Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab told Sky News on Sunday that the government was “on the cusp of a deal”. He said he hoped for an agreement in “a matter of days not weeks”.

Following the United Kingdom’s vote to leave the EU in 2016, one of the main sticking points on Brexit negotiations was how trade would be handled with Northern Ireland, which is politically part of the UK but geographically on the island of Ireland.

The protocol addressed this, and Northern Ireland effectively remains in the EU customs union and the single market for goods.

But since the protocol came into force, the UK government and Northern Ireland’s Unionist political parties, who support Brexit, have expressed serious misgivings about the arrangement.

Britain has been mired in a two-year standoff with the EU over the protocol, and negotiations only resumed four months ago. Both sides seek a deal that avoids a hard border on the island, in order to protect the Good Friday Agreement and avoid a return to the violent conflict known as the Troubles.

The Guardian newspaper reported that Sunak’s new deal is tentatively named the Windsor agreement, and would revamp post-Brexit arrangements in Northern Ireland.

Critics, led by former prime minister Boris Johnson, say Sunak’s deal would still give the EU some sovereignty over Northern Ireland, and last week Johnson suggested he may not support it.

When he was still leader last year, Johnson proposed the controversial Northern Ireland Bill, which would unilaterally override parts of the Brexit treaty. Debate on this bill has been paused amid the ongoing EUUK protocol discussions.

In an interview with The Sunday Times, Sunak said the deal he is close to agreeing is not a threat to Brexit but is about “making sure that Brexit works in every part of the United Kingdom”.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *