According to No 10, talks between the Prime Minister and Commission President Ursula von der Leyen have resulted in a number of last-minute concessions from the EU.
Downing Street has claimed that Chancellor Rishi Sunak has secured last-minute concessions from Brussels and is aiming to finalize a Brexit deal this weekend. The government reportedly addressed issues faced by businesses due to post-Brexit regulations in Northern Ireland and achieved positive breakthroughs during intensive discussions with the EU over the past week.
The Prime Minister spoke with Commission President Ursula von der Leyen on Friday night, and further talks are planned to finalize the deal, which is expected to be agreed on as early as Sunday.
The monarch was due to meet with von der Leyen, but the meeting was cancelled, with government sources insisting that the King will take no role in negotiations. Conservative MPs have been instructed to attend the House of Commons on Monday, indicating that the Chancellor expects the deal to be ready.
However, it remains unclear whether the Democratic Unionist Party will accept the new agreement, and the deal will also need the support of Brexiteer Tory backbenchers in the European Research Group. DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson emphasized the importance of getting the deal right rather than rushed and stated that his party’s seven tests will be used to judge any agreement between the UK and EU.
For the past two years, the UK and EU have been deadlocked over renegotiating the Northern Ireland Protocol, which aims to prevent a hard border with Ireland by moving checks to the Irish Sea.
A source with knowledge of the matter revealed that the framework of a deal has been in place for a while, and recent negotiations have focused on fine-tuning and presenting the agreement to the Democratic Unionist Party and European Research Group.
Although Downing Street did not disclose any details on Friday, potential concessions may include provisions for Westminster to determine VAT rates and state aid policy in Northern Ireland, which are currently set by Brussels, even though Northern Ireland is part of the United Kingdom. Other potential concessions may involve fewer checks on British goods going to Northern Ireland and a potential increase in the UK’s role in verifying whether British goods destined for the Republic of Ireland meet EU regulations.
According to reports, the Democratic Unionist Party is set to have a guaranteed seat at the table during negotiations for new EU laws that could impact Northern Ireland under the new agreement. Chancellor Rishi Sunak was reportedly presented with a draft of the pact in mid-January, but he urged negotiators to push for more.
An EU diplomat stated that a public announcement of the deal is highly likely by the end of Monday at the latest. Cabinet ministers have also been informed of a potential video call with No 10 in anticipation of the agreement’s finalization over the weekend.
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