DUP warns Sunak not to leave Northern Ireland ‘abandoned to EU’


The DUP has warned Rishi Sunak that the party will not return to power-sharing if he leaves Northern Ireland “abandoned to the EU” under any new deal he has cut with Brussels over the Brexit trading arrangements for the region.

Sammy Wilson, the MP for East Antrim, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that the deal the prime minister is expect to share with Northern Ireland’s political parties in Belfast on Friday must meet the seven conditions it laid down before it returns to power-sharing.

“What we want to hear from him most importantly, is where the negotiations have reached in removing the automatic application of EU law to Northern Ireland without any democratic input from the representatives in Northern Ireland and without any ability to change those laws if they’re detrimental to Northern Ireland,” he said.

He was speaking hours before Sunak was due to meet political leaders in Northern Ireland to brief them on the latest on negotiations with the EU.

In a sign that a deal is imminent, the EU has also summoned diplomats from the 27 member states to a briefing on Friday morning with the UK foreign secretary, James Cleverly, in Brussels for a further meeting with the European commission vice-president, Maroš Šefčovič.

A deal has been on the cards for the last four weeks and is expected to include a settlement on an elimination of some checks on goods going from Great Britain to Northern Ireland and a new dispute resolution mechanism not involving the European court of justice (ECJ) in the first instance.

But the elimination of the application of EU law seems unlikely as this would entail a complete renegotiation of the principles that lie behind the protocol.

Wilson said the party would want to see that Northern Ireland “was not separatedlegally from the rest of the United Kingdom”.

He hinted that any role for the ECJ would remain an issue for the DUP, with Wilson pointing out that “oversight only occurs … to ensure that EU law applies in Northern Ireland”.

It is believed that the deal on the table includes a fudge removing the EU’s powers to go directly to the ECJ for a decision if it feels a trade rule has been breached with an arbitration panel involving NI and EU judges created as the first port of call in any dispute.

Sunak is expected to try to reassure the DUP that its new deal complies with the strict seven tests the DUP set in exchange for its support.

Meanwhile, David Jones, the deputy chairman of the European Research Group, which has said it is in “lockstep” with the DUP, tweeted that Northern Ireland “must cease to be subject to laws made in Brussels”.

Speaking on Thursday night, Ireland’s deputy prime minister, Micheál Martin, said negotiations had been “serious and substantive” but said further discussions were due over the weekend when Sunak is expected to meet the commission president, Ursula von der Leyen, on the sidelines of a security conference in Munich.

“I’ve no doubt that the British prime minister, in advance of further discussions over the weekend and next week, wants to ascertain from the political parties in Northern Ireland a sense of the various positions that they have in relation to [the protocol],” he said. Talks had been “serious and substantive” and trust had been built between UK and EU negotiators, he added.