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Has Sunak finally got Brexit done?

By Frank McKenna

By Frank McKenna

Frank McKenna reflects on Rishi Sunak’s ‘Windsor Agreement’ – and the potential impact it has on the wider UKs future relationship with the EU.

The oven ready deal Boris Johnson promised he had ready to ‘Get Brexit Done’ in 2019 was, clearly, undercooked.

As Rishi Sunak outlined his ‘Windsor Framework’ agreement with the EU in the Commons on Monday, you could have been forgiven for thinking that the prime minister was in a different party to that of his predecessor – and maybe he is.

Sunak laid out a litany of flaws in the agreement that Johnson and Brexit negotiator-in-chief Lord Frost had done with Europe three years ago, and laid bare the folly of the disgraced former PMs claims that he would deliver for the DUP, for Ireland, and for the Union. He delivered on none of those three tests.

In doing so, Sunak also dropped the bill going through parliament that would have put the UK on course for a trade war with the EU, and potentially alienated those on his backbenches who are reasonably described as ‘Brexit fanatics.’ I haven’t read through the detail of the Windsor Agreement yet – but it seems to be pissing off all the right people.

Given that the majority of Conservative MPs have backed the deal; and that Keir Starmer has confirmed Labours support for the new proposals, then it is fair to assume that, ERG or DUP opposition or not, Brexit has – at last – been done.

That this is a triumph for Sunak and his government cannot be denied. It is his biggest achievement since he entered Number 10.

Nevertheless, it is a deal that may not only stir trouble for him internally – but one that will have those of us who supported Remain to point out the obvious contradiction in the prime minister’s support from exiting the EU, and his remarks espousing the huge benefits of the Northern Ireland deal he has just brokered.

On the back of the new settlement Northern Ireland is – according to Sunak – the best place on the planet to invest in – having open access to both the UK market and the EUs single market. The Irish also benefit from Freedom of Movement.

That, of course, was the privileged position the rest of the UK held before Boris and his chums, aided and abetted by Sunak, persuaded the majority of the English to rip those benefits up. 

Access to the Single Market for Ireland, a frictionless border, and a far more cordial relationship with our European neighbours will make for a much more progressive and positive trading relationship between the UK and the EU. And it is now, surely, only a matter of time before involvement for the whole of the UK in the single market, and indeed the customs union, is inevitable.

It does make you wonder what all the economic pain and political chaos was for. Ah, that’s right – Boris wanted to be ‘King of the World’.

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