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Northern Ireland Protocol: Boris Johnson cautions Rishi Sunak not to drop power to override Brexit deal

Former Prime Minister Boris Johnson and current PM Rishi Sunak

Boris Johnson has urged Rishi Sunak not to abandon legislation he introduced on how Northern Ireland’s post-Brexit trade will work in the long-term.

The Northern Ireland Protocol Bill was set in motion when Mr Johnson was PM, but Mr Sunak has been meeting EU leaders to agree a new deal.

Since 2021, certain trade checks cover some goods crossing the Irish Sea.

A source close to Mr Johnson said the former PM thought it would be a “great mistake” to move away from his plan.

If it concludes its passage through Parliament, it would give the Westminster government the power to unilaterally decide to move away from those current arrangements for Northern Ireland. 

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Many Conservative MPs on the backbenches see the move towards that ultimate position as an important bargaining chip whenever the UK is trying to wring concessions from the EU. 

The protocol bill is currently paused in parliament while the UK and EU try and hammer out a new deal – one which again aims to resolve longstanding issues like trade across the Irish Sea and the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice in Northern Ireland. 

Following the latest round of talks on Saturday, Mr Sunak warned an agreement was “by no means done” and said there were still “challenges to work through”.

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The comments from the source close to the ex-PM were initially reported by Mr Johnson’s former employers, the Sunday Telegraph.

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But on Mr Sunak’s plans for a new deal, the source said Mr Johnson believes no one can make a judgement until people have seen the text – which the government hopes to release early next week.


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