(Bloomberg) — Prime Minister Rishi Sunak is meeting on Monday with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen with a new deal on Northern Ireland’s post-Brexit trading arrangements in sight.
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The meeting suggests Britain and the European Union are finally ready to settle their differences after a stand-off that’s poisoned relations since Britain’s departure from the bloc’s single market and customs union in 2021.
If a deal is reached, Sunak is expected to brief his Cabinet in the afternoon, alongside presentations from Foreign Secretary James Cleverly and Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Chris Heaton-Harris, who have both been involved in talks. The premier will hold a news conference later in the afternoon before making a statement to Parliament. From the EU side, EU Brexit chief Maros Sefcovic will brief member states on Monday on the state of play.
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(All times are UK)
Von Der Leyen to Meet King (11:55 am)
Von der Leyen will meet with King Charles III later this afternoon, Sunak’s spokesman, Max Blain, told reporters.
Speaking after some Conservatives, including former cabinet minister Jacob Rees-Mogg criticized the idea of the European Commission president meeting the monarch, Blain said it’s up to the King to decide who he meets. He declined to comment on why the monarch had been given the advice that a meeting should go ahead.
The disclosure comes after familiar people said last week a meeting between von der Leyen and the King had been planned for the weekend before being cancelled. That had sparked controversy, with Tory backbencher Jacob Rees-Mogg telling GB News on Monday such a meeting would be a “mistake” because the sovereign should not be involved until there is “full support” for any deal.
Buckingham Palace said in a statement that the King “is pleased to meet any world leader if they are visiting Britain and it is the Government’s advice that he should do so.”
Von Der Leyen Arrives in UK (11:10 am)
Sunak Seeking to Settle Trickiest Brexit Overhang (10:55 am)
The deal signed by then Prime Minister Boris Johnson in 2019 caused various problems for Northern Ireland and it has been a simmering source of tension since.
The agreement created an effective trade border within the United Kingdom, requiring goods traveling from Great Britain to Northern Ireland to face various customs checks as if they were heading for the EU. It also kept Northern Ireland following some EU laws.
That riled unionists, who have stymied the formation of Northern Ireland’s power-sharing government for more than a year in protest against the arrangements. The UK-EU discussions have sought to fix those frictions, while continuing to protect the bloc’s single market.
Starmer Says Deal Likely to Be an Improvement (10:30 am)
Asked why he’s backing a deal he hasn’t read yet, Labor Party Leader Keir Starmer said he’s “completely across the issues” and their potential solutions.
“Frankly any steps in this direction are going to be an improvement on what we have said,” Starmer told reporters after delivering a speech on Monday. “I can say with confidence that we back the deal. It’s not going to be a surprise, it’s not going to be out of the blue.”
Northern Ireland Deal Will Spur Growth, Labour’s Reeves Says (07:32 am)
The opposition Labor Party said a new post-Brexit agreement for Northern Ireland will boost the UK economy and pledged to back the expected deal negotiated by Prime Minister Rishi Sunak.
“This will be beneficial to the economy of the United Kingdom,” Labour’s shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves said on Bloomberg TV on Monday. “We’re not going to play party politics with this. We will support the government if and when they bring back a deal.”
Tory Backbencher Says N. Ireland Needs Say on Laws (7:10 am)
Theresa Villiers, a Brexiteer Conservative backbencher, said Sunak’s deal needs to end frictions and paperwork for goods crossing the Irish Sea and also end the situation where “people in Northern Ireland are subject to thousands of single market laws over which they have no say and no vote.”
“We can’t tolerate a continuation of Northern Ireland being subject to the full panoply of single market rules,” Villiers — a former Northern Ireland secretary — told BBC radio on Monday. “There’s going to be significant divergence in the future and that makes it even more important for us to address this problem that we must enable people in Northern Ireland to have a say over the laws that govern them.”
Villiers also said it’s “crucial” that Sunak gives Parliament a vote on any new deal, adding: “I can’t conceive of circumstances where something as significant as this can be finally agreed and implemented without MPs voting.”
–With assistance from Kitty Donaldson, Emily Ashton, Alex Wickham and Richard Bravo.
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