Rishi Sunak faces mounting crisis as Brexiteers vow to reject new EU deal in Commons vote
By Dan Falvey
Published: 20/03/2023- 13:14
Updated: 20/03/2023- 15:56
Rishi Sunak's new Brexit deal has been rejected by the DUP, as opposition to his solution to frictions caused by the 2019 withdrawal agreement continue to mount.
The party's leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson confirmed that his MPs would vote against the Windsor Framework in the House of Commons on Wednesday.
Sunak unveiled his new agreement with Brussels earlier this month, which he claimed would ease trading issues for goods crossing from the Great Britain to Northern Ireland. But he has found himself under increasing pressure from Brexiteers over the legal terms in the deal.
The DUP's opposition comes after the Reform Party this morning announced a number of its former MEPs were rejoining the party in protest at the Government's failure on Brexit.
Donaldson said that while there had been “significant progress” in addressing concerns with the Northern Ireland Protocol he said it does not deal with some of the “fundamental problems at the heart of our current difficulties”.
“It is our party view that there remain key areas of concern which require further clarification, re-working and change as well as seeing further legal text,” the DUP leader said.
“There is no doubt it is vital that the Northern Ireland Assembly must have at its disposal democratic mechanisms that are effective in law and which underscore the role of the locally elected representatives of the people of Northern Ireland to determine whether amended or new laws are implemented.
“Notwithstanding the issues and conditions which have to be met to make the brake work, it remains the case that the brake is not designed for, and therefore cannot apply, to the EU law which is already in place and for which no consent has been given for its application.
“Whilst representing real progress, the ‘brake’ does not deal with the fundamental issue which is the imposition of EU law by the protocol.”
The Northern Ireland Protocol as originally introduced left the province effectively still a part of the EU's single market, with customs checks required on all goods crossing the English Channel and the Brussels regulations imposed on all products sold there.
The Windsor Framework sees an end to customs checks for most goods and the ability for local elected politicians to reject the imposition of new regulations from the EU.
Donaldson said DUP officers met on Monday morning to discuss how to respond on Wednesday in the first of a series of votes on the new deal.
Labour and the SNP have already vowed to support Sunak in the Commons vote, but the opposition from Brexiteers risks placing the Prime Minister in a difficult position.
As well as the DUP and Reform criticising the agreement, Tory backbenchers are still yet to declare how they will vote.
The European Research Group of Brexiteer Conservatives is still determining whether to give its backing to Sunak.
Richard Tice vowed to stand up against the new Brexit deal
This morning Reform UK - previously known as the Brexit Party - announced that 11 of its former MEPs would be rejoining in order to tackle the Government on Brexit.
"People should be under no illusion we mean business," party leader Richard Vice said.
"Never before have we heard from so many people that they feel the country is broken.
"People are so concerned the main two parties are letting everybody down.
"I believe with the right leadership, if we do Brexit properly, if we save the union, we don't leave Northern Ireland behind, then actually we can make the whole UK great again.
"But to do that there are some fundamental, major reforms that are needed."