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Sunak sees off Tory rebels over his new Brexit deal for Northern Ireland

22 Mar 2023 2 minute read
Rishi Sunak. Photo Victoria Jones PA Images

Rishi Sunak has seen off a backbench revolt by Tory hardliners opposed to his new deal with Brussels on post-Brexit trading arrangements for Northern Ireland.

Just 22 Conservative rebels, including former prime ministers Boris Johnson and Liz Truss, defied a three line whip to vote against regulations to implement a key plank of the Windsor Framework agreement.

The so-called Stormont brake, designed to give a veto over the imposition of new EU rules in Northern Ireland, was passed comfortably by 515 votes to 29, with Labour and other opposition parties backing it.

Six DUP MPs voted against the statutory instrument along with former Tory Andrew Bridgen, who now sits as an independent, while more than 40 Conservative MPs did not vote – although some would have had permission to be away from Westminster.


A Government spokesman hailed the vote, saying it put power back in the hands of Stormont and Westminster, ending the “ratchet effect” of new EU law in Northern Ireland.

“The Windsor Framework is a turning point for the people of Northern Ireland, fixing the problems with the old protocol to ensure the smooth flow of internal UK trade, safeguard Northern Ireland’s place in the Union and address the democratic deficit,” the spokesman said.

However in the Commons DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson said it had still not laid the ground for his party to return to powersharing at Stormont.

The executive and Assembly have been suspended since last year when the DUP walked out in protest at the way the protocol was operating.

Sir Jeffrey said the “bottom line” for the party’s return was an assurance that EU law could not impede Northern Ireland’s ability to trade with the rest of the UK.

“Until that is resolved, I can’t commit to the Government that we will restore the political institutions – it’s what I want to do, but we need to get this right,” he said.

“I want Stormont restored on a sustainable basis, on a stable basis where there is cross-community consent and consensus. That does not exist at the moment.”

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