The Windsor Framework: How did MPs react to Northern Ireland’s new post-Brexit deal? | policy news

Rishi Sunak confirmed on Monday that he had reached an agreement with the EU to resolve issues with the Northern Ireland Protocol.

But after dealing with the press, he was sent to the House of Commons to face two and a half hours of questions from MPs of all stripes about the substance of the business.

So what did they find? We look at the main groups that interrogate the PM.

Northern Ireland MPs

DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson is not yet ready to condemn or praise the protocol replacement.

He told lawmakers that “significant progress has been secured in a number of areas” but “key issues of concern” remained.

“My party will want to study the details of what was published today,” he added, saying it would be compared to the party’s seven tests of an acceptable deal.

But Sir Jeffrey told Sunak that “sovereignty is crucial”, so going forward the government needed to give assurances to Northern Ireland that there would be no EU laws creating trade barriers between NI and the rest of the UK.

DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson is taking his time before giving his approval – or disapproval – of the deal.

His fellow DUP, Jim Shannon, seemed more certain about his position. He said the deal was “more than solar panels and sausages” – it was about Northern Ireland’s place in the UK.

Shannon spoke out on any involvement of European courts in laws that affect them, saying “the real power must be in Westminster, not Brussels”.

He added: “The Prime Minister cannot close any deal without bringing a majority of trade unionists on board.

“And imposing another deal in this House without buy-in from unionists will offer no result other than another failed deal.”

Another DUP MP, Sammy Wilson, described Mr. Sunak to the House of Commons as “an 18-minute confession… of the harm that the (Northern Irish) protocol signed by your government has done to Northern Ireland”.

And he questioned the so-called Stormont brake – which is designed to allow the Assembly to pause new EU laws and allow the UK government to veto them.

“We don’t have confidence in that,” said Wilson, “which (is) why we still fear that our position in the UK will not be restored.”

See more information:
Five main sections of the Windsor Framework

But SDLP leader Colum Eastwood said his concerns about the brake were from a different perspective.

“There has been a lot of talk about DUP concerns,” he said.

“But it’s important to remember that the majority of people in Northern Ireland were opposed to Brexit and want to see the benefits of dual access (to the EU’s single market) put to good use.”

His point was echoed by Stephen Farry of the Alliance Party, who feared it could “add more instability” in Northern Ireland if such access was threatened.

the conservatives

There have been no outright condemnations of the structure by the conservative banks… yet.

Neither Boris Johnson nor Liz Truss were in the House – although a source close to Johnson told Sky News that he “continues to study and reflect on the government’s proposals”.

Sir Edward Leigh came closer, warning that unless the deal got the NI Assembly up and running again, “it’s pretty pointless – in fact it could be downright dangerous”.

He added: “I can assure him that many of his colleagues at these banks are watching the DUP very carefully and we will go where they go.”

Theresa May – the first Conservative prime minister to try to negotiate a deal, who was ousted by her own MPs for failing to reach a deal they liked – congratulated Sunak on the new offer, saying it “would make a big difference”.

She said the Northern Ireland Protocol – negotiated by her immediate successor Boris Johnson – was “the European Union’s preferred proposal for a border in the Irish Sea”.

She added: “The best move now is for everyone in this House to support this deal, because it is in the interests of all the people of Northern Ireland.”

Theresa May
Theresa May has lent her support to Rishi Sunak’s deal, while making some pointed criticisms of Boris Johnson’s.

Former Brexit secretary and cause cheerleader David Davis also gave his wholehearted support to the framework.

He offered his “unqualified congratulations” to Mr. Sunak called it a “spectacular success” and praised the “extraordinary mechanism” of the Stormont brake.

“It was a brilliant piece of negotiation, insight and imagination,” he said.

Andrea Leadsom – another leading Brexit campaigner – said that if such a deal had been tabled at any time over the past five years, “those of us who were Brexitists, unionists and remnants would have jumped on it”.

But Sir Bill Cash said “the devil is always in the details”.

Opposition’s views

Offering his support for the deal, Labor leader Sir Keir Starmer told the House of Commons: “We are not going to criticize. We are not going to try to play political games.

“And when the Prime Minister puts this deal to the vote, the Labor Party will vote in favour.”

He said the plan “will never be perfect – it’s a compromise” but added: “I’ve always been clear that, if implemented correctly, it’s a deal that can work in the spirit of the Good Friday Agreement.

“And now that it’s been agreed, we all have an obligation to make it work.”

However, Sir Keir took the opportunity to attack Boris Johnson for telling the public that there would be no Irish Sea checks in their previous agreement, saying the claim was “preposterous”.

“(It was) an absolute refusal to engage with trade unionists in Northern Ireland in good faith, not caring to take their concerns seriously,” he added. “And it inevitably contributed to the breakdown of power sharing in Northern Ireland.

“And I wondered after the Prime Minister had listed all the problems if he had forgotten who he had negotiated with.

“So, as I lay out what this deal means in practice, I urge the Prime Minister to be totally different from his predecessor.”

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‘We won’t shoot’: Labor pledge to back deal

Perhaps unsurprisingly, SNP MPs were less than impressed with the deal, believing the best thing would be to return to the EU.

“Brexit was an unmitigated disaster,” said Westminster party leader Stephen Flynn.

“And what this agreement doesn’t do is create parity between these nations.”

He said Northern Irish companies will continue to have access to the EU’s single market, while Scotland will not.

“I don’t envy Northern Ireland companies, but I regret that Scotland doesn’t have the same opportunities,” he added.

Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey said his party needed to consider the deal but welcomed “the spirit of partnership and compromise between the UK government and the European Union” in reaching a deal.

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