NNot only MP and arch-Brexiteer Jacob Rees-Mogg is reminded of the days of Theresa May, whose government negotiated a “deal” with the EU several times in 2018 and 2019 but was unable to push through at home. However, there are differences. For one thing, neither London nor Brussels have officially confirmed that there is any agreement at all on reforming the controversial Northern Ireland Protocol in the Brexit treaty. On the other hand, it is unclear whether critics in parliament could throw Rishi Sunak’s government into serious difficulties.
British newspapers write that Sunak wanted to present, debate and approve the deal in the House of Commons on Tuesday or Wednesday. But the resistance of the Northern Irish Democratic Union Party (DUP) has not been broken so far, despite numerous talks and a trip by the Prime Minister to Belfast.
The DUP, which has been preventing the formation of a government in Belfast for months in protest at the Northern Ireland Protocol, has received support from the likes of Rees-Mogg and other EU opponents in the Tory group. They reject a supposedly negotiated compromise with the EU that would weaken, but not eliminate, the role of the European Court of Justice in trade disputes. The issue of “sovereignty”, which dominated the 2016 Brexit referendum, is back on the agenda. It is unacceptable for an EU court to have the last word on matters affecting Northern Ireland, it said.
The opposition wants the issue settled
The tactics of Sunak, who wants to withdraw the law with which the British government could unilaterally amend the Brexit treaty in order to reach a deal with the EU, are also controversial. Sunak’s predecessor, Boris Johnson, introduced the law as leverage; it is currently in the House of Lords. Johnson’s circle said withdrawing the law was a “bad idea”. Johnson will publicly criticize Sunak if he gets the impression that he is bringing Britain closer to EU rules. “He says this is a Brexit government or it’s nothing at all,” the Times quoted a Johnson ally as saying.
Sunak is still trying to convince the critics. But it also says he will sign without the approval of the DUP and Tory right wing if necessary. Approval from the House of Commons is not necessary, but the chances are good. The reason for this is that the Labor Party is signaling approval. Its chairman Keir Starmer would like to see the unpopular issue settled if he takes over the government in 2024.
Some believe that Sunak can announce an agreement with Brussels as early as this Thursday, others suspect that this will happen by April 10, when the American President is expected in London. Biden himself has spoken out against Brexit many times – to the annoyance of the DUP and arch-Brexiteers.