Rishi Sunak warned of major strategic mistake in Brexit deal talks

Jacob Rees-Mogg says Brexit is ‘going well’

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Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has been warned he risks “a major strategic mistake” if he drops plans to fully implement the Northern Ireland Protocol Bill as a caveat to reach a deal with the EU on post-Brexit rules. As the country prepares to celebrate the three-year anniversary of Britain fully leaving the Brussels bloc, Mr Sunak received stern warnings from figures in his party over his Brexit plans.

Among them, Lord David Frost, former Brexit Secretary and UK negotiator.

He told The Daily Telegraph: “It’s entirely reasonable for the Government to see if it can reach a worthwhile deal with the EU over Northern Ireland, but it has already weakened its hand to get one by halting the Protocol Bill.

“So it’s crucial it doesn’t abandon the powers in the Bill altogether, in case it can’t get a deal or in case a deal comes apart under pressure later – which is all too likely given the EU’s obtuseness over Northern Ireland so far.”

Hugh Bennett, who served on Lord Frost’s team and was a special adviser to Boris Johnson and Liz Truss, echoed this saying: “The United Kingdom must ask itself frankly what it is securing in return if the price demanded is to concede on its fundamental ability to govern within its own borders.

“That is why it is so important that the UK must not agree to pause, drop or hollow out the Northern Ireland Protocol Bill as a condition of any deal with the EU, or turn it into a simple implementation Bill for a deal.

“To do so risks being a major strategic mistake for years to come. Without the Bill, UK ministers will neither have the leverage to bring the EU back to the table nor the power to make anything beyond the most trivial changes themselves.”

David Jones, a former Brexit minister and the deputy chairman of the European Research Group, also told The Daily Telegraph: “The only time the EU actually responds is when you wave a big stick.

“The Government should be pressing on with the Protocol Bill as a matter of priority to see that Northern Ireland’s semi-detached status to the rest of the country is put to an end as soon as possible.”

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In a statement to mark the third anniversary on Tuesday of the UK’s withdrawal from the EU, the Prime Minister said the country is confidently forging a new path as an “independent nation”.

He pointed to the opening of eight new freeports, plans to review or abolish EU red tape and the overhaul of the regime for business subsidies among the benefits of the break with Brussels.

However, his upbeat analysis contrasted with recent polling suggesting growing unhappiness with the way Brexit has turned out.

In his statement, Mr Sunak said: “In the three years since leaving the EU, we’ve made huge strides in harnessing the freedoms unlocked by Brexit to tackle generational challenges.

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“Whether leading Europe’s fastest vaccine rollout, striking trade deals with over 70 countries or taking back control of our borders, we’ve forged a path as an independent nation with confidence.

“And in my first 100 days as Prime Minister, that momentum hasn’t slowed – we’re cutting red tape for businesses, levelling up through our freeports, and designing our own, fairer farming system to protect the British countryside.

“This is just the beginning of our plans to deliver on our five priorities, including growing the economy so we can create better paid jobs, and I’m determined to ensure the benefits of Brexit continue to empower communities and businesses right across the country.”

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