LONDON, Feb. 27 (Reuters) – British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has struck a new deal on post-Brexit trade rules for Northern Ireland, betting that the reward of better ties with the European Union is worth any disagreement it might cause within his own party. can cause .
A government source said Sunak had agreed terms with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen when they met at a hotel west of London. They hold a joint press conference at 1530 GMT.
The deal marks a risky strategy for Sunak, who has been looking to compromise and improve relations with Brussels – and the United States – without sufficiently angering the wing of his party most wedded to Brexit.
Sunak’s spokesman had previously told reporters that the two sides were in “final talks and significant progress has been made over several weeks and months.”
The deal aims to resolve tensions caused by the 2020 post-Brexit arrangements governing Northern Ireland, a British province, and its open border with EU member Ireland.
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However, it remains to be seen whether it will go far enough to break the political deadlock in Northern Ireland and satisfy critics in Britain and the province.
The new agreement is expected to ease physical checks on the flow of goods from Britain to Northern Ireland and give county legislators a say in the EU rules it must implement under the complicated conditions of Britain’s departure from the block.
London could also draft some tax and state aid rules.
Its success could depend on whether it convinces the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) to end its boycott of Northern Ireland’s power-sharing arrangements. These were at the center of a 1998 peace deal that largely ended three decades of sectarian violence in the British province.
DUP leader Jeffrey Donaldson, speaking before news of a deal came out, said they would take time to review the details before deciding whether to accept it.
Victory would strengthen Sunak’s grip on his Conservative Party and allow him to push past the most contentious issue on his agenda as he tries to catch up with the opposition Labor Party, now well ahead in opinion polls, before any 2024 national elections are expected.
If he failed, he would likely face an uprising from his party’s eurosceptic wing, reviving the deep ideological divisions that have paralyzed the government at times since the vote to leave the EU in 2016.
Written by Kate Holton, edited by Christina Fincher, Nick Macfie and Tomasz Janowski
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