No deal this week says Sammy Wilson as Sunak faces Tory opposition to potential deal

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has faced pushback from the DUP and senior conservatives over a potential deal with the EU on the NI Protocol. Credit: PA Wire/PA Images

DUP MP Sammy Wilson has said he does not believe there will be a deal this week between the UK Government and the EU on the Northern Ireland Protocol.

His comments come as senior Tories have stepped up warnings to Rishi Sunak not to try to strike a Brexit deal with Brussels which is unacceptable to the DUP.

Officials have been in talks with EU counterparts over the weekend amid speculation that an agreement to resolve the problems with the Northern Ireland Protocol governing post-Brexit trading arrangements is close.

However the reports have alarmed some committed Tory Brexiteers as well as some senior figures in the DUP who fear the Government is giving too much ground to the EU.

No 10 denied suggestions the Prime Minister had been forced to delay an announcement – which had been widely expected as early as this week – amid concerns of a backlash at Westminster.

The Republic's foreign affairs minister Micheál Martin warned against playing politics with the future of Northern Ireland as he expressed hope a deal can be reached.

Mr Martin said he would be hopeful of agreement this week, but said he could not be certain that would happen. He insisted the pace of the negotiations had not slowed in recent days.

"I think what's very important is that everybody now from here on think about the people of Northern Ireland," he said.

"Not power play, not politics elsewhere. I think the people of Northern Ireland have had enough of people playing politics with their future. And, in my view, my only concern is that the people of Northern Ireland voted (in last May's Assembly election), they want their institutions (at Stormont) restored.

"People had legitimate concerns around the operation of the protocol. There's been a very sincere and substantial attempt to resolve those concerns by the UK negotiating team with the EU negotiating team. I think we should allow that to come to realisation and fruition in the coming while and we should then focus on the needs of the people."

East Antrim MP Sammy Wilson said a deal which still kept NI in the EU single market, "as ministers in the Northern Ireland Assembly we would be required by law to implement that deal and we are not going to do that because we believe such an arrangement is designed to take us out of the United Kingdom".

"Increasingly we would have to agree EU laws which diverge from UK laws and in doing so would separate our own country from the United Kingdom," he told Sky News.

Northern Ireland unionists argue that placing an effective trade border across the Irish Sea undermines the region’s place within the UK Credit: Liam McBurney/PA

Mr Wilson, the DUP chief whip at Westminster, accused ministers of going into the negotiations with the EU with “an attitude of defeat” and said that he did not expect to see a deal announced this week.

“We are British and we expect to be governed by British law, not Brussels law." Mr Wilson said, adding that, "We would certainly not collaborate in administering Brussels law in our part of the United Kingdom.”

The veteran Tory Eurosceptic Sir Bernard Jenkin said that any deal which did not lead to a return to power sharing at the Stormont Assembly by the DUP – which walked out in protest at the protocol – would be “completely disastrous”.

“If it doesn’t get the support of both communities in Northern Ireland it is just going to make things worse because it will cement in place an agreement that has destroyed power sharing in Northern Ireland,” he told Times Radio.

Conservative former cabinet minister Simon Clarke has backed a call by Boris Johnson for ministers to press on with legislation enabling them to override parts of the Northern Ireland Protocol.

He said the Protocol Bill, currently paused in the House of Lords, would strengthen the hand of ministers in negotiations and could ultimately provide a better solution than a new deal with the EU.

“It is absolutely imperative tactically to give our negotiators the strongest possible hand to play with Brussels,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

“If the perception is there that the Bill is moribund then that will, I am afraid, weaken our hand very considerably.

“We need to make sure that if a deal is struck here it is genuinely a better one than that we can achieve through our own legislation to fix the protocol.”

Mr Johnson’s intervention over the weekend – his first on Brexit since departing No 10 – has raised concerns over a potential rebellion by Eurosceptic Tory backbenchers if Mr Sunak’s changes are put to a vote in Parliament.

Some Tories quickly sided with the former prime minister, with Lord Frost – who negotiated Mr Johnson’s original Brexit deal – urging the Government to “push on with the Protocol Bill”.

However, Mr Clarke, a strong supporter of both Mr Johnson and his successor Liz Truss, denied he was trying to make trouble for Mr Sunak.

“Quite the opposite. I want to see this issue fixed. It is vital for the Conservative Party,” he said.

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