We need your help now

Support from readers like you keeps The Journal open.

You are visiting us because we have something you value. Independent, unbiased news that tells the truth. Advertising revenue goes some way to support our mission, but this year it has not been enough.

If you've seen value in our reporting, please contribute what you can, so we can continue to produce accurate and meaningful journalism. For everyone who needs it.

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak Ben Stansall/PA Images
Northern Ireland

Protocol stand-off: Sunak faces resignation threats ahead of high stakes Cabinet

The Times reported some ministers could be prepared to resign if Sunak’s solution risks the place of the North within the UK.

BRITISH PRIME MINISTER Rishi Sunak will hold a Cabinet meeting today amid growing anticipation that the UK and the EU could be on the verge of agreeing a deal on Northern Ireland Protocol.

But Sunak is facing up to a potential battle with members of his own party as he seeks to satisfy the demands of both Conservative MPs and the DUP over any agreement.

The European Research Group (ERG), a band of Eurosceptic Conservative MPs, are expected to meet for talks later today even as Downing Street insisted that a final deal had not yet been struck.

As pressure builds on the British Prime Minister, who is also facing calls to allow MPs a vote on any final deal, the Times newspaper reported that some ministers could be prepared to resign if Sunak’s solution to the protocol risks the place of Northern Ireland within the UK.

A No 10 source told PA news agency that central to Sunak’s focus was safeguarding Northern Ireland’s place in the Union.

There are hopes that a fresh settlement on post-Brexit arrangements in Northern Ireland will be able to secure the return of powersharing at the Stormont Assembly, after the DUP walked out in protest at the protocol last February.

Yesterday, UK Foreign Secretary James Cleverly and the EU’s Maros Sefcovic agreed to hold a face-to-face meeting in the coming days after a “productive” video discussion.

Sources in Brussels welcomed the move to schedule in-person talks as a positive step, but said a location had not been set.

Focus has also turned to the fate of the Northern Ireland Protocol Bill, which is currently stalled in the Lords and would allow ministers to override parts of the protocol, after Boris Johnson called on ministers to press on with legislation enabling them to override parts of the protocol.

The intervention by the former British prime minister, who negotiated the protocol but whose Government also tabled the Bill at Westminster after unionist outcry at the deal, was a sign that some backbenchers may try to scupper any agreement brokered by Sunak if it fails to address longstanding gripes about the settlement in Northern Ireland.

UK Home Secretary Suella Braverman yesterday described the Bill as “one of the biggest tools that we have in solving the problem on the Irish Sea”.

Braverman, a longstanding Eurosceptic, argued that Sunak is right to be “committed to finding a pragmatic solution to resolve these issues”.

Labour leader Keir Starmer has urged the British Prime Minister to allow the House of Commons to have its say on any final deal, offering his party’s support to secure the approval of any new agreement in the event of any Tory rebellion.

It comes as former Northern Ireland secretary Brandon Lewis threw his weight behind calls to reform some of the post-Good Friday Agreement architecture in Northern Ireland, arguing that it was failing to reflect the changed electoral landscape in the region.

“The growth in the vote for the Alliance Party underlines the feeling that many more people now want to vote on issues, not on sectarian lines.

“That should be embraced as the greatest success of the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement. But if the Agreement does not evolve further, under current rules, if Alliance and its vote share continues to grow, it will never have the right to nominate the First or Deputy First Minister.

“Democracy cannot succeed when it is set in tram lines that can never cross,” Lewis wrote in the Telegraph newspaper.

Press Association
Your Voice
Readers Comments
This is YOUR comments community. Stay civil, stay constructive, stay on topic. Please familiarise yourself with our comments policy here before taking part.
Leave a Comment
    Submit a report
    Please help us understand how this comment violates our community guidelines.
    Thank you for the feedback
    Your feedback has been sent to our team for review.

    Leave a commentcancel