UK PM Sunak in Belfast to sell post-brexit Northern Ireland deal

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UK PM Sunak in Belfast to sell post-brexit Northern Ireland deal

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak left and European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen hold a joint press conference on February 27, 2023 at the Fairmont Hotel in Windsor, west of London. PHOTO AFP LONDON British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak was in Belfast on Tuesday to sell the new post-Brexit trading arrangements he agreed with Brussels, and he wanted to get unionists onside to break the political deadlock in the province.

Sunak struck a deal with the EU on Monday to loose restrictions on trade between Northern Ireland and Britain, and give lawmakers more control over the rules and regulations they follow from Brussels.

The deal wants to deal with the tensions caused by the Northern Ireland protocol, a complex agreement that set the trading rules for the British-governed region that London agreed before it left the EU, but now says they are unworkable.

Its success is likely to depend on whether it convinces the Democratic Unionist Party DUP to end its boycott of Northern Ireland's power sharing arrangements. These were central to the 1998 peace deal, which ended three decades of sectarian and political violence in Northern Ireland.

British Foreign Secretary James Cleverly told Sky News Sunak that the government had taken into account the concerns of the unionists who fear any loosening of ties with London and that they would talk through the practicalities of what's been agreed.

He said that we listened very carefully to the people, businesses and elected representatives in Northern Ireland.

The issue of Northern Ireland has been one of the most contentious parts of Britain's departure from the EU in 2020, souring relations between London and Brussels and hurting cooperation in other areas, including science and financial services.

British newspapers, including those who backed a harder line against Brussels, welcomed the concessions by Sunak, although they said it was too soon to know whether it would be enough to get the DUP to return to power sharing.

READ MORE: Grown-up diplomacy would serve the interests of the UK better.

Sunak had played a difficult hand well after he decided to prioritize friendlier relations with the EU, as opposed to his predecessors Liz Truss and Boris Johnson who took a more combative approach.

He now awaits the crucial response of the DUP and the Brexiteers. Time will tell if he has pulled off a political triumph.