Sunak suggests MPs will be allowed to vote on his proposed post-Brexit NI protocol deal

22 February 2023, 13:13

Sunak and Starmer went head-to-head in PMQs
Sunak and Starmer went head-to-head in PMQs. Picture: Parliament TV

By Emma Soteriou

Rishi Sunak has suggested MPs will be allowed to vote on his proposed post-Brexit deal in Northern Ireland.

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Speaking during Wednesday's PMQs, Mr Sunak said MPs would be able to have their say as intensive talks continue.

Challenged by Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer, the PM said: “Of course parliament will express its view but what is crucial here is that this is not about his desire to play political games in this House with this situation.

"This is about what is best for the people and communities of Northern Ireland and that is what I will keep fighting for."

Sir Keir noted: "Well, I take it from that that this House will get a vote and I look forward to that vote in due course."

But the move will risk a showdown with Eurosceptics on the Tory benches.

Sir Keir accused Mr Sunak of “pulling the wool over the eyes” of Tory Brexiteers by refusing to say a compromise deal would mean some EU laws will be left in place in Northern Ireland.

Read more: Rishi Sunak warned ministers could quit over Northern Ireland deal after Johnson and Braverman pile pressure on PM

Read more: 'Game on': Sinn Fein President hails 'significant progress' after Northern Ireland protocol talks with Sunak

It comes after Mr Sunak was warned ministers would be willing to quit over his deal.

Former PM Mr Johnson piled pressure on him, saying it would be a "great mistake" to drop the Northern Ireland Protocol Bill in favour of a new Brexit deal.

Meanwhile, current Home Secretary Suella Braverman described the current Northern Ireland Protocol as one of the "biggest tools" the UK has in negotiating with the EU.

PM: Starmer was 'constantly voting to frustrate Brexit'

Mr Sunak vowed on Wednesday to be "resolute" in defending Northern Ireland, telling MPs he was a "Conservative, a Brexiteer and a unionist", and any agreement over changes to the protocol must tick those boxes.

Questioning the PM, Sir Keir said: "The Labour Party is proud to be the party of the Good Friday Agreement and peace and prosperity in Northern Ireland. We welcome attempts to make the protocol work more effectively.

"Does the Prime Minister agree with me that it has been poorly implemented and that the basis for any deal must be removing unnecessary checks on goods?"

Mr Sunak said: "As he knows, we are still in active discussions with the European Union, but he should know that I am a Conservative, a Brexiter and a unionist, and any agreement that we reach needs to tick all three boxes.

"It needs to ensure sovereignty for Northern Ireland, it needs to safeguard Northern Ireland's place in our union, and it needs to find practical solutions to the problems faced by people and businesses.

"I will be resolute in fighting for what is best for Northern Ireland and the United Kingdom."

Lord Kim Darroch 'applauds' Rishi Sunak for getting to this point with the NI protocol

He said intensive talks would continue "to find practical solutions to the problems faced by people and businesses".

However, Sir Keir warned that the "irreconcilables" on the Tory benches are going to "come after him".

Hitting back at the Opposition leader, Mr Sunak said: "We need to keep going to actually secure an acceptable agreement, but for the honourable gentleman to be talking about a deal that he hasn't even seen, that we are still negotiating, that isn't finalised...

"And it's his usual position when it comes to the European Union, it's give the EU a blank cheque and agree to anything they offer. It's not a strategy, that's surrender."

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