Ursula von der Leyen to Travel to UK for Talks With Rishi Sunak – Rishi Sunak is scheduled to meet in person with Ursula von der Leyen, the President of the European Commission, and it is anticipated that an agreement to amend the post-Brexit protocols in Northern Ireland will be reached as early as Monday. “Today, president of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen and prime minister of the United Kingdom Rishi Sunak agreed to continue their work in person towards shared, practical solutions for the range of complex challenges around the protocol on Ireland and Northern Ireland,” a joint statement said.
“President Von der Leyen will therefore meet with the prime minister in the UK tomorrow.” The upcoming meeting marks a crucial juncture in Rishi Sunak’s tenure as Prime Minister, as he endeavors to garner support for the extensively negotiated agreement from the Democratic Unionist Party in Northern Ireland and Conservative MPs who supported Brexit. It is anticipated that the deal will be announced shortly, and following several weeks of discussions, there has been growing anticipation that the UK and EU will revise the Northern Ireland protocol.
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On Sunday morning, Dominic Raab suggested that Sunak was very close to finalizing a deal. “There’s real progress,” the justice secretary and deputy prime minister told Sky News’ Sophy Ridge on Sunday programme. “We want to make sure all the pieces are in place. But I think hopefully there will be good news in a matter of days, not weeks.” The schedule appears to have been expedited even further, as Ursula von der Leyen and Rishi Sunak are anticipated to review a final roster of items that require the attention of senior leaders.
Although the UK government has cautioned that a final resolution is not certain, the meeting has led to widespread expectations that an agreement will be reached on Monday. If a deal is indeed reached, Rishi Sunak will face the considerable challenge of persuading the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) and the European Research Group (ERG) of Brexit-supporting Conservative MPs, who have thus far been skeptical of the revised proposal.
Mark Francois, who chairs the ERG, warned on Sunday of chaos if the prime minister tried to push through an unsatisfactory plan, adding that it would be “incredibly unwise” to proceed without a formal vote in the Commons, something to which the government has still refused to commit. Francois told the Ridge show that any continued role for the European court of justice (ECJ) over Northern Ireland, however limited or curbed by oversight, would make the deal unacceptable.
While refusing to go into details, Raab in effect confirmed reports that the vital issue of how to deal with goods entering Northern Ireland from the rest of the UK would have an “intelligence-based approach” intended to minimise checks, with most items processed via a light-touch “green light” system. “Those are the kinds of things it’s been well known that we’ve been pushing for,” he said, adding that this would greatly reduce the oversight of the ECJ.
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“If we can scale back some of the regulatory checks that apply and some of the paperwork that applies, that would in itself involve a significant, a substantial, scaling back for the role of ECJ.” As part of this, any new rules that affected the EU’s single market – to which Northern Ireland is directly attached because of the lack of a trade border with the Republic of Ireland – would require a final say from the devolved assembly at Stormont.