Boris Johnson Dodged Rishi Sunak's Big Brexit Deal Speech And Everybody Noticed
LONDON, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 27: British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Britain's Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak visit 'Fourpure Brewery' in Bermondsey on October 27, 2021 in London, England. Earlier in the day, Sunak presented the government's budget, and how to "deliver a stronger economy for the British people", to the House of Commons. (Photo by Dan Kitwood-WPA Pool/Getty Images)
MPs packed into the House of Commons tonight to hear Rishi Sunak explain the new Brexit deal he has agreed with the European Union.
But one senior Tory was noticeable by his absence.
Boris Johnson was nowhere to be seen as Sunak listed the shortcomings of the Northern Ireland Protocol, the agreement the former prime minister struck with Brussels when he was in Number 10.
Sunak said his “Windsor Framework” deal removes the customs border in the Irish Sea which had been created by the Protocol, while also giving the Northern Ireland Assembly a veto on new EU laws.
And in a further blow to Johnson, the PM also confirmed that the government is ditching the Northern Ireland Protocol Bill, which would have given ministers the power to unilaterally over-ride parts of the Brexit deal.
Last week, Johnson said the bill - which was introduced when he was PM - was “the best way forward”.
But Sunak said it was no longer required and that his deal was “a new and better option”.
A source close to Johnson said he “continues to study and reflect on the government’s proposals”.
But his decision to not even turn up in the Commons to hear Sunak’s statement did not go unnoticed, with numerous political journalists pointing out his absence on Twitter.
It’s the way he tells them…
Sunak thanks his predecessors for “laying the groundwork” to his deal.
All eyes on Boris Johnson’s usual seat. “Where is he?” ask Labour MPs. pic.twitter.com/jMDdVwOuPP
— Matt Chorley (@MattChorley) February 27, 2023
Boris Johnson not in the Commons to hear Rishi Sunak set out sweeping changes to his Brexit deal and declare: 'We have now taken back control'
— Jason Groves (@JasonGroves1) February 27, 2023
House of Commons packed for Sunak statement on NI Protocol - with one notable blond exception
— George Parker (@GeorgeWParker) February 27, 2023
Boris not in the chamber. Which indicates Rishi has won.
— (((Dan Hodges))) (@DPJHodges) February 27, 2023
No sign of Boris Johnson or Liz Truss in the Chamber. #Brexit#WindsorAgreement
— Christopher Hope📝 (@christopherhope) February 27, 2023
At a press conference earlier today alongside European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen, Sunak hailed his new deal as “a decisive breakthrough”.
He said: ”[It] 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.”
But it is still unclear whether it will receive the backing of Brexiteer Tory MPs or the Democratic Unionist Party.
DUP leader Jeffrey Donaldson told the Commons: “In broad terms, it is clear that significant progress has been secured across a number of areas, whilst also recognising that there remain key issues of concern.”
He added: “Where necessary we stand ready to engage with the government in order to seek further clarification, reworking or change as required.”
Labour leader Keir Starmer said his party would support the deal when it is put to a Commons vote, although it is not yet known when that will be.