UK and EU near protocol deal for Northern Ireland trade, as British government promises to address Unionist concerns

The British government is working hard to reach a deal to fix issues with the Northern Ireland Protocol, according to UK PM Rishi Sunak. However, no agreement has yet been secured.

The Prime Minister, is optimistic about a positive outcome and hopes to unveil a new-look protocol soon.

The Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) is refusing to participate in Northern Ireland’s cross-community government, citing the impact of the Brexit treaty on trade between Northern Ireland and Great Britain.

The party has issued seven tests that any agreement will have to meet in order to gain its support. Mr Sunak has promised that any deal will address Unionist concerns.

A protocol deal has been expected for almost a week, and there were reports of good progress during a Friday call between Sunak and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.

However, intensive discussions are still ongoing between London and Brussels, and a planned meeting between von der Leyen and Sunak was cancelled.

Irish premier Leo Varadkar said that talks between the UK and the European Union were “inching towards conclusion”, and urged all parties to “go the extra mile” to sign off on negotiations.

Multiple reports suggest that a deal is almost done, with Mr Sunak delaying an announcement until he is confident it will be accepted.

Reports suggest that Mr Sunak has secured concessions that will ease the flow of trade between Northern Ireland and Great Britain, including exempting trusted traders from checks and allowing VAT rates, taxes, and state aid policy to be set by Westminster rather than Brussels.

The Northern Ireland Assembly will reportedly be given pre-legislative scrutiny over new EU laws to remove the “democratic deficit”. However, Downing Street denies that a deal has been secured.

Former Prime Minister Boris Johnson has reportedly urged Mr Sunak not to drop his Northern Ireland Protocol Bill, which would unilaterally overwrite parts of the treaty.

Reports of a planned meeting between von der Leyen and the King were criticised by DUP MP Sammy Wilson, who accused the Prime Minister of “dragging the King into a hugely controversial political issue”.

However, a UK Government source said that it would not have been improper for the King to have met a visiting European leader.

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