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No 10 denies Sunak seeks single market access after hailing NI’s EU opportunities

28 Feb 2023 3 minute read
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak. Image by Simon Dawson Downing St

Downing Street has been forced to stress that Rishi Sunak’s hailing of Northern Ireland’s access to both EU and British markets should not be seen as an endorsement of single market benefits for the whole of the UK.

During a visit to a Coca-Cola factory in County Antrim to promote his Windsor Framework, the Prime Minister said the deal would create “the world’s most exciting economic zone”.

“If we get this right, if we get this framework implemented, if we get the Executive back up and running here, Northern Ireland is in the unbelievably special position – unique position in the entire world, European continent – in having privileged access, not just to the UK home market, which is enormous, but also the European Union single market.

“Nobody else has that. No-one. Only you guys: only here, and that is the prize.”

Critics online were swift to point out that the entire UK had full access to the EU’s single market before Brexit.

Best for Britain

The anti-Brexit campaign Best for Britain tweeted: “Sunak in Belfast (sic) emphasises what ‘a hugely privileged position’ it is to have access to both EU and UK markets, and how it is definitely worth the relatively small trade-off of following some Brussels regulation.

“Why not extend this ‘fantastic deal’ to the whole country? Oh.”

Stella Creasy, chairwoman of the Labour Movement for Europe, said: “The Prime Minister is boasting about the benefits of the single market and customs union for businesses in Northern Ireland, whilst denying those same benefits to businesses struggling in the rest of the UK with our current economic crisis.”

The Walthamstow MP said “we do need to remind those who brag about Brexit” of the “real cost to our economy and our country it has created”.

Mr Sunak’s remarks could also anger hardline Eurosceptics in his own party, who may interpret them as a secret wish by the Prime Minister to move towards closer trading ties with the bloc.

Pressed on the issue later, the Prime Minister’s official spokesman told reporters: “The British people made a decision in 2016 and we are seeing the benefits of that decision, whether that’s in the ability to change our environment laws, some of the tax elements the Prime Minister talked about just today, in fact.

“With regards to Northern Ireland, it is simply a fact that because of our respect for the Good Friday Agreement and the central importance: Northern Ireland’s unique position means it needs to have access to both markets, not least to avoid a border on the island of Ireland, which nobody wants to see.

“That puts it in a unique position and what the framework does is finally cement those capabilities.”

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John Davis
John Davis
1 year ago

It’s OK. Tory ERG members Raab and Leadsom have also said the same thing in the past. They know that being inside the world’s best trading block would be good for Britain, they’ve always known it, but it doesn’t fit in with their personal ideology to action it. Ideology first, party second, country third. That’s the ERG Tories. That’s Brexit. That’s your future flushed.

Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
1 year ago

Rishi sounds like a daytime TV salesman trying to convince us to buy his rubbish…

The man talks about the UK as if he has only read about it in a travel brochure…

1 year ago

They’ve created a problem, and then expect credit to be given for partially solving it.

1 year ago

I think Sunak as set a precedent here. If its good for NI, then why not Wales, Scotland and England?

1 year ago

This takes the biscuit, hes trying to tell us, that what he and his party successfully campaigned to deny us, is really the best thing we could have trade wise. What’s that saying, you can fool some of the people some of the time, and you can fool Brexiteers all of the time.

Fi yn unig
Fi yn unig
1 year ago

I appreciate Sunak had to do something about the situation in N.I. but trumpeting loudly how fantastic it is obviously means it would be the best arrangement for GB too. He’s opened another big can of worms here and in attempting to address what the DUP call the ‘democratic deficit’, he should consider what that means to Wales and Scotland whose voters repeatedly reject his party at the polls only to suffer being subjected to their imposed rule. Don’t talk to me about a democratic deficit.

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