Rishi Sunak discusses NI agreement in Parliament
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A senior Conservative MP has urged Rishi Sunak to ask Emmanuel Macron to explain Brussels’ take on his Brexit deal during their meeting today. Sir John Redwood highlighted comments by the EU’s chief negotiator Maros Sefcovic that the pact on Northern Ireland was designed to avoid negative headlines in Britain and will not hand back full sovereignty.
The Thatcherite MP said the Prime Minister gave a “very different view” to MPs in the Commons.
Sir John said today’s summit between Mr Sunak and the French President presents an opportune moment for the PM to “clear it up” and that Mr Macron could “override” Mr Sefcovic if he is incorrect.
The Wokingham MP highlighted Mr Sefcovic’s suggestion to the European Parliament’s Brexit committees that the Stormont brake would not be an effective veto over new EU laws affecting Northern Ireland and that there will not be a “diminishing” of the role of the European Court of Justice (ECJ).
Sir John told the Express: “We’ve seen the Sefcovic commentary in the press where the EU’s chief negotiator said the ECJ will retain substantial powers.
“He set out how the EU will impose quite a lot of laws on Northern Ireland, which it doesn’t impose on the rest of Great Britain. And he played down the ability to use the so-called Stormont brake.
“Now this is a very different view from the view that the Prime Minister set out to the Commons where he said the Stormont brake would restore democratic accountability over laws in Northern Ireland, where he said we would take control over the things that mattered.
“So there’s clearly some disagreement or misunderstanding. So I think the Prime Minister needs to sort it out with Macron because Macron is one of the most senior politicians representing the EU.
“And Macron should really tell Sefcovic that he’s got it wrong if the Prime Minister thinks he has got it wrong.”
Sir John added: “I could not possibly accept the EU’s version of the agreement. I think the Sefcovic comment is extremely damaging and that’s why I hope the Prime Minister can clear it up.
“And what better opportunity than to get a clarification from Macron who could clearly override Sefcovic.”
The Brexiteer MP said he fears Mr Sunak’s deal could be better for the EU than the UK.
He said: “That’s my view but I’m still listening to the Government’s case and I’ve tabled a series of questions.
“I want to know how many EU laws will apply in Northern Ireland and which ones they will be because we haven’t been told that. Obviously, the more EU laws that apply in Northern Ireland, the more the powers of the ECJ because it does seem to be agreed by both sides that the ECJ has a role where there is European law.
“I want to know the circumstances in which the Stormont brake could be applied because I am very worried that the Stormont brake wouldn’t work when you wanted it.
“And as I understand it the Stormont brake doesn’t apply to any of the law that you start off with from the EU, it could only be considered for a new law.
“I also have a worry about the apparent disagreement over VAT and excise taxes because the Prime Minister offered me exactly what I wanted, which is that the UK will decide on VAT and excise in Northern Ireland as it must be able to do. But the EU is suggesting that a number of VAT restrictions and rules would still apply in Northern Ireland.”
Mr Sunak last month struck his deal on the Northern Ireland Protocol with the EU and insisted it “puts beyond all doubt that we have now taken back control”.
He is still waiting for the verdict of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) and the European Research Group (ERG) of Tory Brexiteers.
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