Rishi Sunak's Brexit deal 'does not represent UK taking back control', Boris Johnson says

2 March 2023, 12:37 | Updated: 2 March 2023, 15:02

It comes days after Rishi Sunak announced a new deal with the EU - the Windsor Framework
It comes days after Rishi Sunak announced a new deal with the EU - the Windsor Framework. Picture: Getty
Kieran Kelly

By Kieran Kelly

Boris Johnson has argued that Rishi Sunak's Windsor Framework does not represent the UK taking back control in the wake of Brexit.

Speaking on Thursday, Mr Johnson said he would find it "very difficult to vote" for the Windsor Framework, claiming he would have negotiated something different.

"I'm conscious I'm not going to be thanked for saying this, but I think it is my job to do so: we must be clear about what is really going on here," he said.

"This is not about the UK taking back control, and although there are easements this is really a version of the solution that was being offered last year to Liz Truss when she was foreign secretary.

"This is the EU graciously unbending to allow us to do what we want to do in our own country, not by our laws but by theirs."

Boris Johnson has made his first public comments on Rishi Sunak's Brexit deal
Boris Johnson has made his first public comments on Rishi Sunak's Brexit deal. Picture: Getty

Mr Johnson conceded he made mistakes in signing his Northern Ireland Protocol that caused the DUP to walk out of powersharing because of trade barriers in the Irish Sea.

"I thought those checks would not be onerous since there isn't that much stuff that falls into that category; most of the goods stay in Northern Ireland," he said.

Muttering, the former prime minister added: "It's all my fault, I fully accept responsibility."

In his first appearance since Mr Sunak negotiated a new deal with the European Union, Mr Johnson also said he wanted to point out that when he stepped down, the Conservatives were only a few points behind Labour.

Read More: 'We've now taken back control': Sunak hails Brexit deal as Tory hardliners and DUP size up agreement

Read more: Brexit deal: Northern Ireland Protocol explained

Mr Johnson also played down the prospect of a comeback, saying it is "very, very unlikely that I will need to do anything big in politics again".

But he did indicate he would be keeping a close eye on some of the issues he had identified as his political legacy. That included "supporting and defending Brexit" and championing the cause of Ukraine, he said.

"I also care deeply about the agenda that this government was elected to deliver, which was levelling up, and I do not want us to lose sight of that," he added.

It comes days after Mr Sunak said the UK has "now taken back control" as he hailed his new deal to reform the Northern Ireland protocol, after striking a revised agreement with the EU.

The "Windsor Framework" amends the conditions under which trade in Northern Ireland takes place, establishing green and red lanes based on the risk of the goods that could move into the Republic of Ireland and the single market.

Some EU law will still apply in Northern Ireland - but Mr Sunak said it would be the bare minimum required for frictionless trade between the province and the EU, preventing a hard border in Ireland.

Former DUP MP says the Windsor Framework will not be accepted as it is

He said the new framework will remove "thousands of pages of EU laws and [make] permanent legally binding changes to the protocol itself" during a statement in Parliament.

But MPs jeered when he praised his "predecessor" for laying the groundwork that allowed the old protocol to be superseded by his new deal with the EU.

"It achieves something we never achieved before - removing the requirements of the EU customs code for people sending and receiving parcels. Families can rightly send packages to each other without filling in forms," he said.

"Online retailers can serve customers in Northern Ireland as they did before and businesses can ship parcels through the green lane."