Northern Ireland Protocol: Will the PM be able to sell the revised agreement at home

As well as Rishi Sunak, Ursula von der Leyen

The jigsaw pieces are widely recognized. A prominent EU official recently informed me that they had been on the table for some time. Now it's just a matter of us both having the guts to jump together while holding hands. ".

The European Commission President and Rishi Sunak are both said by their teams to prefer not to sign a deal over pursuing (another) one they believe is doomed to fail.

Then, will this work?

Rishi Sunak is a pragmatist, according to Brussels. Yes, I support Brexit, but I'm also a pragmatic politician who prioritizes finding solutions.

He is compared favorably to both Boris Johnson, whom EU leaders generally believe signed the agreement "in bad faith," and Liz Truss, who they claim "didn't dare touch the post-Brexit agreement on Northern Ireland." (You might wonder if she had the time in her brief premiership.).

Despite publicly denying knowledge of it, they claim he was aware that the protocol deal called for checks on goods moving between Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

But with so much at stake, including the politics and stability of Northern Ireland as well as his own Conservative Party, why would Mr. Sunak try to resolve this complex and divisive post-Brexit issue?

He already has a lot of issues to deal with, including strikes, a challenging upcoming budget, and local elections in May where the Conservatives are trailing in the national polls.

However, the EU recognized that the prime minister was pursuing a revised Northern Ireland deal for a number of compelling political and economic reasons.

Mr. Sunak wants to see better ties with the US and the EU most of all.

The Biden administration made it abundantly clear that discussions by the previous UK government about unilaterally overriding the current Northern Ireland Agreement would not be "conducive" to a trade agreement between the UK and the US.

The Good Friday/Belfast Peace Agreement also marks its 25th anniversary in April.

The prime minister looks forward to President Biden's visit. To reinstate the power-sharing government in Northern Ireland, he must first sufficiently alter the protocol to convince the Democratic Unionist Party to join.

Mr. Sunak will also benefit from improved ties with the EU, the UK's largest trading partner.

Importantly, if the revised agreement fails, he would be forced to move forward with a Bill that would allow him to unilaterally override important provisions of the protocol, which could result in a pricey trade war with Brussels, which the prime minister very much hopes to avoid.

A revised agreement and increased bilateral trust may facilitate future agreements with the EU, such as the UK's entry into the alluring Horizon research program, the creation of a post-Brexit financial services agreement, and the facilitation of UK musicians' travel within the EU.

Ahead of a significant Franco-UK summit where fighting people smuggler boats across the English Channel will be a major topic of discussion, it would also strengthen ties with France.

Goods checked at he port of Larne, Northern Ireland

Since the tense days of the initial Brexit negotiations, relations between the EU and the UK have already significantly improved.

Both sides were brought back into focus on their shared values and priorities by Russia's invasion of Ukraine. They have collaborated closely on sanctions against Russia and within Nato on a country-by-country basis.

The EU has high hopes that disagreements over the Northern Ireland Protocol will soon be history.

The EU claims that it considers the cost of fewer customs inspections to be worth the risk to its single market. .

The UK has therefore had the initiative for some time.

The challenge is figuring out how to package and present a deal so that it will be practical and acceptable to the important "stakeholders" — the public and political — in the UK.

Ursula von der Leyen's trip to the UK on Monday is thought to be the finishing touch on the presentation, but in Brussels, EU diplomats murmur that they aren't counting their chooks. .

"We know negotiations with us [the EU] are only part of a UK prime minister's journey," an EU official said to me. UK internal divisions as a result of Brexit were profound. A new Northern Ireland agreement has been up for discussion. We are currently waiting while we observe.

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