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Rishi Sunak warns deal between Britain and the EU 'by no means done'
18 February 2023, 16:25 | Updated: 19 February 2023, 00:19
Rishi Sunak has warned that a deal between Britain and the EU on the Northern Ireland Protocol is "by no means done", but said there is "an understanding on what needs to be done".
Speaking during a Q&A session after his speech at the Munich Security Conference, the PM said Britain wanted to have a positive relationship with the European Union.
But despite hinting at some progress, he stressed that there were "real issues that need resolving".
"The way that the protocol has been implemented, it's causing very real challenges for families, for people, for businesses on the ground," he said.
"We're engaging in those conversations with the European Union all the time and we have been for a while, but what I'd say is there is still work to do.
"There are still challenges to work through. We have not resolved all these issues.
"No, there isn't a deal that has been done, there is an understanding of what needs to be done."
Mr Sunak added that "we're working through (the issues) hard and we will work through them intensely with the EU, but we are by no means done".
The PM's trip to the German summit came the day after meetings with the five main Stormont parties in Belfast to rally their support.
His comments come after Sinn Fein leader Mary Lou McDonald said that "significant progress" had been made to resolve the dispute over the Northern Ireland Protocol said headway was being made in the talks.
Speaking after following with Mr Sunak during his trip to Northern Ireland she said: "We have always believed that a deal on the protocol was possible and we've always known it was necessary.
"It is clear that significant progress has been made and we are very heartened by that. We now want to see a speedy concluding of matters.
"The bottom line is that we have to ensure that any deal provides for ongoing access to the European single market, no hardening of the border on the island of Ireland and a protection of the Good Friday Agreement in all of its parts.
She called on all political parties to "get back to work and deliver for people here in the north of Ireland" if the terms are reached, comments apparently directed at the DUP and other unionists who, in protest over the protocol, have collapsed the Assembly.
Mr Sunak and Northern Ireland Secretary Chris Heaton-Harris travelled to Belfast, as speculation mounts that a deal on could be just days away.
After meeting with Mr Sunak the Northern Irish capital, DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson said "progress has been made" on issue, but that some work was still required.
But he made clear that "if and when a final agreement is reached, we will want to carefully consider the detail of that agreement and decide if the agreement does, in fact meet our seven tests".
The DUP set out "seven tests" in 2021, which includes no new checks of any kind on goods being traded between Great Britain and Northern Ireland.
Asked if he could compromise on these stipulations in order to get a deal, Sir Jeffrey said it wasn't a question of compromising, but of the "UK government honouring the commitments they've made".