Rishi Sunak insisted that his new deal for Northern Ireland’s post-Brexit trading arrangements “ensures proper sovereignty” for the region, as he confirmed there would be no renegotiation.
The Prime Minister was grilled on the Windsor pact he signed with the EU despite opposition from the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) and some senior Conservatives.
Veteran Brexiteer Sir Bill Cash said Northern Ireland would be perpetually locked into EU laws and asked how that fitted with Mr Sunak’s support for the union.
He disagreed with Sir Bill’s assertion that the Windsor Framework does not represent the kind of union the people of Northern Ireland expect.
“I do think that it ensures proper sovereignty for people of Northern Ireland and corrects the democratic deficit because of the Stormont brake,” the Prime Minister said.
Last week, MPs voted in favour of regulations to implement the Stormont brake, a key part of the Windsor agreement, despite former prime ministers Boris Johnson and Liz Truss joining the DUP and hardline Brexit-backing Tory MPs in voting against the deal.
The deal was formally signed off with the EU later in the week.
But with no sign of the DUP being willing to return to powersharing, Mr Sunak was asked what happens if it is not restored.
He said: “I remain hopeful that we can continue to have dialogue with all the parties in Northern Ireland.
“I want to see powersharing up and running,” he said, adding that “that’s what the people of Northern Ireland need and deserve”.
The Windsor Framework ensures challenges posed by the Northern Ireland Protocol have been “dealt with” and provides a foundation “for us to move forward”, Mr Sunak added.
Mr Sunak also confirmed there would be no further negotiation with Brussels.
Simon Hoare, chairman of the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee, asked him whether there was now a choice between the Windsor Framework or the existing Northern Ireland Protocol in its unamended form because “there is no scope for further negotiations with the European Union”?
The Prime Minister said: “In the interests of brevity, that is right.”