Eurosceptics rubbish UK post-Brexit fix as ‘practically useless’

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Eurosceptic Conservatives rubbished a key element of a deal with the EU on Northern Ireland as “practically useless” on Tuesday, calling on lawmakers to study a legal review of British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s plans before deciding how to vote.

Sunak has sought to end years of wrangling in his Conservative Party over Brexit by revisiting and tackling one of the trickiest parts of the years-long negotiations – to ensure smooth trade to Northern Ireland without creating a so-called hard border with Britain or the European Union.But his solution – a modification to an earlier agreement named the Windsor Framework — has so far been rejected by the two groups he most wanted to win over, the European Research Group of eurosceptic Conservatives and the biggest unionist party in the province, the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP).The one glimmer of hope for a British leader who has sought to end the toxic ties with the EU of his predecessors Boris Johnson and Liz Truss, is that the ERG, long a thorn in the side of several British prime ministers, will allow its members to vote as they wish.The decision to not vote as a bloc could reduce the size of any rebellion and allow Sunak to increasingly sideline the group of Conservatives who have all but put paid to earlier attempts to solve post-Brexit trade with Northern Ireland.But their opposition to the “Stormont brake” was clear. They said it failed to address the “democratic deficit” by restoring power over some laws to Belfast.”EU law will still be supreme in Northern Ireland,” ERG Chairman Mark Francois told reporters.”The Stormont brake is practically useless and the framework itself has no exit other than through a highly complex legal process.”Francois said the ERG would meet on Wednesday morning to decide whether to vote in favour of the brake later that day, but a source said it would be up to individual members to decide how they wanted to cast their ballot.The ERG’s criticism comes a day after the DUP said it could not vote in favour of the brake, which aims to hand the Northern Ireland assembly the power to prevent new EU laws applying to goods in Northern Ireland.Sunak is in no danger of losing the vote as the opposition Labour Party has said it will vote in favour, but the British leader will want to minimise the rebellion in his own ranks and ensure the vote carries with the votes of his party.”The Stormont brake is important and the most significant part of the framework, and we continue to urge parliamentarians to back it,” Sunak’s spokesperson told reporters.”A vote against the brake, in factual terms, would lead to automatic alignment with the EU with no say at all.”

via Reuters

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