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Sunak challenged to 'prove himself' on Brexit as EU 'trying to capitalise on UK chaos'


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Rishi Sunak needs to “prove himself” on Brexit, a Northern Ireland MP has said, warning the EU may be trying to capitalise on the “chaos” which has rocked Westminster in recent months. DUP MP Sammy Wilson said Mr Sunak, who took over from Liz Truss as Prime Minister last month, has “a lot of work to do” and a “tough job” ahead of him. Yesterday, Mr Sunak said he is “pleased with the progress” that has been made on the issue of the Northern Ireland Protocol when he met with Irish Taoiseach Micheal Martin.

But when asked by Express.co.uk if the Prime Minister has work to do to prove himself on Brexit, Mr Wilson said: “I think he certainly does when it comes to Northern Ireland.

“We’ve had promises from four Prime Ministers and we still haven’t had the changes which are required to ensure that the Protocol does not damage Northern Ireland.

“So I suppose he does have a lot of work to do.

“He does have a tough job, because the EU, having seen the chaos at Westminster, may not be prepared to make much of an offer to Westminster.”

Meanwhile, DUP leader Jeffery Donaldson warned that Mr Sunak will bed “judged” on the outcome of the Northern Ireland Protocol negotiations, calling on Mr Sunak to “hold firm” on the UK’s position.

Speaking to Express.co.uk, he added: “The Northern Ireland Protocol has broken cross-community consensus, so it has to be a priority fo the Prime Minister to ensure the outcome of any negotiations restores that cross-community consensus, in order to restore political institutions. And that must mean Unionists as well as Nationalists supporting the arrangement.”

Yesterday, Mr Wilson warned that Northern Ireland Secretary Chris Heaton-Harris could jeopardize the negotiations, claiming he is “decidedly coy” on issues relating to the EU.

He accused the minister of showing an “unwillingness” to stand up for issues that are important to the unionists and attempting to appease Sinn Fein.

READ MORE: Heaton-Harris could ‘jeopardise’ Brexit talks as minister hints U-turn

Mr Wilson said: “Heaton Harris, although he was a Brexiteer and former chairman of the ERG, seems to be decidedly coy on all the things whcih we thought he promised he was going to be black and white on and clear and had no ambiguity about.

“I suspect it’s the influence of the Northern Ireland office and his unwillingness to stand up to them. The Northern Ireland office’s goal is to keep Sinn Fein happy and keep the Department of foreign affairs in the Irish Republic happy.

“Although it’s meant to be a Government office, it acts almost independently and its acts as if it were detached from the British government. We’ve found this time and time again.”

The UK has been locked in talks with the EU over the Northern Ireland Protocol – which was agreed upon as part of the withdrawal agreement to avoid a hard border in Ireland post-Brexit – since October 2021.

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It allows Northern Ireland to remain within the EU’s single market for goods but it has faced criticism because a border was effectively created between Great Britain and Northern Ireland down the Irish Sea.

The border has led to delays, supermarket shortages and increased costs for businesses in Northern Ireland.

The Government plans to remove key parts of the protocol, such as the need for checks on goods entering Northern Ireland, through the Northern Ireland Protocol Bill.

Yesterday, Mr Heaton-Harris announced that the Government will be introducing legislation to extend the deadline for elections to the Stormont Assembly.

An election was triggered in Stormont last week after the executive was blocked from meeting due to the Democratic Unionist Party’s (DUP) protest over the Northern Ireland Protocol.

The devolved government has not fully functioned since February, with the DUP blocking the formation of the ruling executive.

The Northern Ireland Secretary said he would introduce new legislation to extend the deadline for an election by six weeks, with an option for a further six-week extension if the situation is not resolved by the December deadline.

This means the latest an assembly election can be held is April 13.


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