We have not got a deal yet on Northern Ireland Protocol
That's according to Rishi Sunak
Rishi Sunak has said “there’s more work to do” on reaching a deal with the EU on Brexit’s Northern Ireland Protocol, amid speculation one could be close.
The Prime Minister stressed that “we have not got a deal yet” as he vowed to continue negotiating with the European Commission “intensely”.
Mr Sunak met with Stormont leaders earlier on Friday amid mounting speculation that the Government and EU are on the cusp of unveiling an agreement on the contentious Irish trading arrangements.
The Prime Minister told broadcasters in Downing Street: “Today I had positive conversations with political parties in Northern Ireland about our ongoing discussions to resolve the Northern Ireland Protocol.
“Now it’s clear that we need to find solutions to the practical problems that the protocol is causing families and businesses in Northern Ireland, as well as address the democratic deficit.
“Now there’s more work to do. And that’s why my ministerial colleagues and I will continue talking to the European Union intensely to find solutions that protect the Belfast Good Friday Agreement and Northern Ireland’s place in our single market.”
Asked if he was confident he would get there, Mr Sunak said: “As I said, there’s work to do. We have not got a deal yet.”
The five main Stormont parties – Sinn Fein, the DUP, Alliance, the Ulster Unionists and the SDLP – were invited for individual meetings with Mr Sunak.
Following his visit to Northern Ireland, the Prime Minister is set to join European leaders in Germany this weekend for the Munich Security Conference – and the protocol is likely to feature in discussions on the margins.
In another apparent sign of progress, Foreign Secretary James Cleverly was in Brussels on Friday for a meeting with European Commission vice president Maros Sefcovic – an encounter both politicians described as “constructive”.
The UK and the EU have been engaged in substantive negotiations over the workings of the protocol, which was included in the Withdrawal Agreement to ensure the free movement of goods across the Irish land border after Brexit.
The protocol instead created economic barriers on trade being shipped from Great Britain to Northern Ireland.
It has proven to be deeply unpopular with unionists, who claim it has weakened Northern Ireland’s place within the UK, and the DUP has used a Stormont veto to collapse the powersharing institutions in protest at the arrangements.Published: by Radio NewsHub