Rishi Sunak says companies are ‘queueing up’ to invest in NI
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Brexiteer MPs will hold an emergency meeting in a matter of hours to scrutinise Rishi Sunak’s Brexit deal. The meeting, taking place at 6pm this evening, will see MPs from the powerful eurosceptic European Research Group discuss the Windsor Framework, signed by the UK and EU yesterday. The group, which has been putting pressure on Mr Sunak for weeks, is yet to give a decisive verdict on the deal.
MPs within the group have privately expressed concern that the Windsor Framework has not gone far enough to solve issues with the Northern Ireland Protocol, while others have refused to pass judgement until the ERG’s lawyers have looked at the deal.
A source close to the group said it is important to note the way the EU has sold its deal with the UK, saying the language used by the EU “will be raising concern” for Brexiteers.
A senior ERG MP told the Daily Express the deal appears to be “spun differently for an EU audience”.
The MP also warned the group is “looking closely at the detail of the deal”, echoing ERG leader Mark Francois who yesterday sought assurances from the PM that he “won’t find any nasty surprises” when analysing the text.
The ERG source agreed, adding: “You wouldn’t buy a house without looking at the mortgage.”
Another Brexiteer MP said Conservative MPs have a “series of very serious questions” about the deal, warning: “It appears that the EU can determine which laws apply in Northern Ireland.”
The Windsor Framework, which will solve many of the practical issues with the Northern Ireland Protocol, will still leave Northern Ireland under the jurisdiction of up to three percent of EU laws.
The MP added: “We will want to know what limits there are on that power, as it looks as though they can just legislate for Northern Ireland and the rest as they see fit.”
A third ERG MP warned that the fact that European law will still apply in Northern Ireland could be a “sticking point” for the group.
The MP asked: “How would the EU feel if we decided we wanted to have 3 percent of our laws apply to them?”
But they added that they are waiting to see how the Democratic Unionist Party responds to the deal before passing judgement publicly.
The DUP’s support is thought to be essential for Mr Sunak to proceed with the deal.
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The party is currently staging a boycott of the Stormont Assembly and will only return to power sharing if the deal goes far enough to fix longstanding issues with the Protocol.
DUP MP Ian Paisley Jr yesterday warned the deal “doesn’t cut the mustard”, while party leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson warned, “there remain key issues of concern”.
While Mr Sunak has prasied the deal as being a major breakthrough, the senior ERG MP advised the Prime minister against getting rid of the Northern Ireland Protocol Bill until the deal has acquired the approval of Brexiteers and unionists alike.
The Bill, introduced by Boris Johnson, would allow the Government to torpedo the protocol entirely, rather than renegotiating it as his latest deal has done.
Mr Sunak said the deal – signed yesterday – is an “incredibly positive and comprehensive agreement” which will ensure Britain has “smooth flowing trade within the UK internal market”.
Speaking in the Commons yesterday, he said his deal was a “decisive breakthrough” after years of tensions over the protocol.
Former farming minister George Eustice threw his weight behind the Windsor Framework, saying it is a “big breakthrough”.
He claimed that Brexiteers in the Conservative Party are “pleasantly surprised” by the progress.
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