There was one notable absentee from Rishi Sunak's big Brexit deal speech

There was one notable absentee from Rishi Sunak's big Brexit deal speech
Laughter erupts in Commons as Sunak thanks predecessors for ‘laying groundwork’ for …

Rishi Sunak’s big Brexit moment arrived on Monday evening as he presented his new EU deal to the House of Commons.

His speech hailed the agreement as a “decisive breakthrough”, and marked the beginning of a new chapter in the whole saga – pretty unmissable stuff for any dedicated MP, you’d think.

And yet, one high-profile figure chose to skip the historic announcement: the prime minister’s old boss, Boris Johnson.

The former PM was very notably MIA as Sunak celebrated his own achievements and picked apart the Northern Ireland Protocol – the deal Johnson had previously struck with Brussels.

Sign up for our free Indy100 weekly newsletter

The new leader also confirmed that he’d be ditching the Northern Ireland Protocol Bill that Johnson so proudly championed, which would have enabled ministers to override parts of the Brexit deal unilaterally.

In other words, Sunak was indirectly telling Johnson: “My deal’s better than yours.” And, by all accounts, it is.

We can’t imagine this has all gone down well with the Churchill wannabe, especially since plenty of his longtime Brexiteer allies are now toeing the Sunak line.

However, a close source said that he is simply studying and reflecting on the government’s proposals.

Quiet reflection? Sure, that sounds like Boris Johnson.

His decision to miss Monday’s Commons session was seized upon by political commentators, who had the following to say:

Still, we can’t imagine Sunak’s too bothered about Johnson’s sulking – he’s got far bigger fish to fry.

He is expected to travel to Northern Ireland on Tuesday, after gushing that his Windsor Framework signals a “turning point” for the region after years of post-Brexit tensions.

The deal removes barriers on trade across the Irish Sea and hands a “veto” to politicians in Stormont on EU law – a set of concessions from Brussels that went further than some expected.

So far, the reception has been relatively encouraging among Northern Ireland's Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), with its leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson welcoming “significant progress” even as he warned that “there remain key issues of concern” regarding the deal.

The view of the party will be crucial if the deal is to help restore powersharing at Stormont.

The PM is also expected to speak to backbenchers on Tuesday, with all MPs set to get a vote on the deal. Although, Downing Street has not so far said when or how that take place.

During his speech on Monday, Sunak told Parliament: “Today’s agreement delivers smooth-flowing trade within the whole United Kingdom, protects Northern Ireland’s place in our union and safeguards sovereignty for the people of Northern Ireland.”

Leaders in the EU and beyond have also hailed the progress, with European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen praising the “new chapter in our partnership” while French president Emmanuel Macron spoke of the “important decision”.

Meanwhile, Joe Biden has called the deal an “essential step” in protecting the Good Friday Agreement.

In a White House statement, the US president Joe Biden praised the efforts of London and Brussels to secure the agreement, saying: “I appreciate the efforts of the leaders and officials on all sides who worked tirelessly to find a way forward that protects Northern Ireland’s place within the UK’s internal market as well as the EU’s single market, to the benefit of all communities in Northern Ireland.

“I am confident the people and businesses of Northern Ireland will be able to take full advantage of the economic opportunities created by this stability and certainty, and the United States stands ready to support the region’s vast economic potential.”

Have your say in our news democracy. Click the upvote icon at the top of the page to help raise this article through the indy100 rankings.

The Conversation (0)