If this really is Sunak’s deal with the DUP, why is he taking such a hell of a political risk?

Rishi Sunak offers to sacrifice Brexit freedoms to re-establish government in Northern Ireland.”

This is how the Daily Telegraph has headlined an exclusive by its Europe editor James Crisp. His story claims to flesh out at long last what  the DUP  has been negotiating with Chris Heaton Harris and co. these long months. Quite a story. It may be intended  to add credibility to the speculation that a deal is imminent. I’ve pulled together an account from Crisp’s postings on X .

The Prime Minister has pledged to introduce a requirement that all new laws are screened to ensure they will not create extra trade barriers in the Irish Sea. His latest offer would give DUP an effective guarantee that UK would not pass laws in future that would create more trade barriers between GB & N Ireland ‘But Tory MPs warned it would come at expense of tying Britain to European standards & putting paid to capitalising on Brexit freedom.

These are key elements of the package.

Patriotic” rebrand of Windsor Framework Green Lane to “UK Internal Market Lane”.

All new laws to be screened to ensure they don’t have “significant adverse impact” on GB-NI trade. Warm words promising to negotiate more cuts with EU.

Legislation guaranteeing Northern Ireland’s place in UK.

£3.3bn of funding for Stormont, inc money for public sector pay claims.

 New East-West council on intra-UK trade ties It does not include any renegotiation of WF w/EU – all within wriggle room of existing treaty.

Basically – unionists will be able to force an investigation into the Brexit border with a majority vote in Stormont. I  understand the Gov has also also repeated earlier WF promises to seek further cuts in border checks on British goods from the EU in the future (which they were going to do anyway). A government spokesperson said: “We do not comment on speculation.”

That offer has now been fleshed out and sharpened up as part of package aimed at convincing DUP to get back to Stormont

If there is a majority of unionist Assembly members against the WF, an independent report will be commissioned. The report will have to be commissioned within a month and be finished within six. It must focus on the UK internal market and Northern Ireland’s constitutional status. The Government will have to respond and it has promised to discuss the report findings with the EU.

The report will have to be commissioned within a month and be finished within six. It must focus on the UK internal market and Northern Ireland’s constitutional status. The Government will have to respond and it has promised to discuss the report findings with the EU

 The Government has already promised such a report if the consent vote on Protocol/Windsor Framework didn’t get cross community support… (the consent vote must be held by end of this year).

That weather fane figure among DUP MLAs, Edwin Poots says:

Proposals to stop further trade divergence between NI and GB would be a “win” but aren’t enough on their own. But the DUP has not come this far not to have achieved gains.

Already at Westminster Brexit drums  are beating.  Jacob Rees Mogg has compared  Sunak’s  latest  to Theresa May’s ill fated backstop which would have tied the whole of the UK to something like the EU single market . And Theresa Villiers the former NI Secretary who has always been in denial that  the UK ‘s stance  on Brexit has ever created the slightest difficulty for NI – its all the fault of the EU – told the  Newsletter :

We are not going to fix the problem of lack of democratic control over regulatory rules in Northern Ireland by extending that problem to cover the whole UK. “That was what the rejected May deal sought to do. What we need is for the EU to wake up to the damage that their inflexible approach is doing to political stability in Northern Ireland.

More significant are Business Secretary Kemi Badenoch’s remarks on the alleged benefits of the UK ‘s ability to diverge from EU rules which on the face if it, Sunak’s proposals would restrict. Badenoch is the current favourite to succeed Sunak in the event of the expected Conservative election defeat.

“I can’t, of course, comment on the Northern Ireland political process which is ongoing, and which I am not a participant to. However, what I will say is that we retain the ability to diverge. That is clear. And I do agree with her that if we are really to seize the benefits of Brexit we need to find that comparative advantage in our regulations with the EU, otherwise there would be no point.”

If the government is doing more than flying a kite, Sunak  will have to surface with his proposals soon rather than leave them as leaks. If  so he has made  the momentous political calculation that in this case, the objections of his right wing  can be overcome. Quite a risk when Northen  Ireland affairs are nobody’s idea of a vote winner or a unifying factor for the severely split Conservative party.

 And yet.. Is it completely crazy to suggest that a majority in the Assembly could unite in a vote to continue with the  Framework in exchange  for ironing out more frictions?  


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