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UK's Sunak in N Ireland to sell breakthrough Brexit deal

Published : Wednesday, 1 March, 2023 at 12:00 AM  Count : 224

BELFAST, Feb 28: British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak will on Tuesday meet pro-UK unionists in Northern Ireland to sell his breakthrough deal with the European Union that overhauls post-Brexit trading rules in the province.

Sunak and European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen proclaimed Monday a "new chapter" in relations after years of Brexit tensions as they agreed the new pact.

It follows more than a year of tense talks over the "Northern Ireland Protocol", which has unsettled the province 25 years on from a historic peace deal that ended three decades of armed conflict.

Agreed in 2020 as part of Britain's EU divorce, the original pact kept the province in the European single market for physical goods and subject to different customs rules than the rest of the United Kingdom, angering pro-UK unionists there and eurosceptics in London.

While the new framework has been generally well received, it has yet to secure the backing of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) -- Northern Ireland's largest pro-UK party -- which is needed to resume power-sharing in the province.

The DUP has been refusing to re-enter the devolved government in Belfast for a year, mainly in protest at the protocol, which it said cut Northern Ireland adrift from the rest of the UK.

DUP leader Jeffrey Donaldson said the party would assess whether the agreement met its tests for returning to the Stormont assembly.

Sunak told BBC radio that his deal "will make a hugely positive difference".     �AFP

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