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Brexit news - live: Boris Johnson tries to sabotage NI breakthrough as MPs pave way for Stormont return

Boris Johnson has attacked Rishi Sunak’s new Brexit deal with the DUP – warning that it could tie the UK to EU trade rules in future.

Mr Sunak’s government revealed new arrangements to remove routine checks on goods moving from Great Britain to Northern Ireland in a bid to restore power-sharing at Stormont.

Checks required under the previous so-called “green lane” will be further reduced – a tweak aimed at fixing some of the unresolved mess left by Mr Johnson’s Brexit deal.

The former PM – who has repeatedly criticised Mr Sunak since he was kicked out of No 10 – called on his successor to have the “courage” to ditch more Brussels regulations.

“We must retain the appetite and the courage to diverge from the low-growth high-regulation European model,” said Mr Johnson on X, formerly Twitter.

Last night Jeffrey Donaldson, the DUP leader, said his party was not split on the new deal and that support for it was “absolutely decisive”.

Later, MPs will pass statutory instruments that pave the way for Stormont to finally get a functioning government after nearly two years of impasse over the post-Brexit arrangements.

Key Points

  • Boris Johnson calls for ‘courage’ to ditch more Brussels regulations

  • MPs to pave way for Stormont return

  • DUP agrees deal to end Stormont Boycott

ICYMI: Tory Brexiteer dismisses cost of new food checks as ‘price you pay’ for Brexit

Thursday 1 February 2024 22:00 , Matt Mathers

Conservative minister Andrea Leadsom has dismissed the concerns of business chiefs over the costly new checks imposed on imports from the EU as the “price you pay” for Brexit.

The leading Brexiteer defended the “friction” in the new system for physical checks at the border – describing it as “the costs of doing business”.

Full report:

Tory Brexiteer dismisses cost of new food checks as ‘price you pay’ for Brexit

ICYMI: Tory MP hits out at ‘overzealous French officials’ over export issues

Thursday 1 February 2024 21:00 , Matt Mathers

A Tory MP has hit out at “overzealous French officials” and called for an improved arbitration process to challenge “ridiculous” export issues.

Conservative MP Anthony Mangnall said one of his Totnes constituents found himself in a “completely ridiculous situation” when his shipment was seized after he missed out one word on a certificate.

Environment secretary Steve Barclay said a “proportionate approach” should be taken on these issues.

Speaking in the Commons, Mr Mangnall said: “A constituent of mine had his entire shipment seized in France for missing a single word on the export health certificate by overzealous French officials.

“Can the secretary of state please reassure me that we are going to find arbitration methods to actually speed up the process to challenge these completely ridiculous situations?”

Mr Barclay said the MP had raised the issue with the farming minister (Mark Spencer) who he said is “actively engaged”, adding: “Of course, a proportionate approach should always be taken on these issues.”

Anthony Mangnal (PA)
Anthony Mangnal (PA)

Sinn Fein’s windy talk of a united Ireland must not wreck the new Ulster deal

Thursday 1 February 2024 20:00 , Matt Mathers

Editorial: Two years on from collapsing the government, the DUP has reached an agreement that will restore the Northern Ireland Executive. The deal is proof that, even in an age of deep political fissures, a cross-party consensus can still prevail

Read the full editorial here:

Editorial: Sinn Fein’s windy talk of a united Ireland must not wreck Ulster deal

ICYMI: No 10 says new £3bn Brexit deal with DUP doesn’t need EU approval

Thursday 1 February 2024 19:00 , Matt Mathers

No 10 has said the agreement struck with the DUP to change post-Brexit checks for Northern Ireland will not need Rishi Sunak to reopen his Windsor Framework deal with the EU.

DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson has claimed the new agreement – which has won the backing of his unionist party – will involve “substantive” changes to trade arrangements.

Full report:

No 10 says new £3bn Brexit deal with DUP doesn’t need EU approval

ICYMI: New Brexit border regime could pose ‘serious biosecurity risks’

Thursday 1 February 2024 18:00 , Matt Mathers

Concerns have been expressed before new post-Brexit rules come into force.

The long-delayed new rules, coming into force on Wednesday, are part of the UK government’s introduction of a series of checks this year.

Full report:

New Brexit border regime could pose ‘serious biosecurity risks’

Recap: What's in the deal that has broken Northern Ireland's political deadlock?

Thursday 1 February 2024 17:00 , Matt Mathers

The UK government on Wednesday published the details of a deal that has broken Northern Ireland’s political deadlock and should — barring a major upset — restore the regional government in Belfast after almost two years on ice.

Unveiled on the fourth anniversary of the U.K.’s departure from the European Union, the agreement eases some of the border checks imposed because of Brexit that unsettled Northern Ireland’s delicate political balance and sparked a political crisis.

Full report:

What's in the deal that has broken Northern Ireland's political deadlock?

Donaldson: We’ve secured ‘real changes'

Thursday 1 February 2024 16:39 , Matt Mathers

DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson told the Commons his party has secured “real changes” on the new Brexit deal.

He told the Commons Northern Ireland had been “placed in a situation where we were separated from the rest of the United Kingdom in key elements of the benefits that ought to have flown from Brexit”, and said his task had been to “repair the damage”.

He said: “It is work in progress. I do not stand here this afternoon and pretend that we have completed the task. I recognise that there are ongoing concerns about how these new arrangements will work in practice. And it will be our task to hold the Government to account on its commitments.”

He said his “detractors” have been “very vocal”, adding: “My challenge back to them is clear and simple… When they are in a position to set out clearly for the people of Northern Ireland what they have achieved… the changes they have secured to safeguard our place in the union, I will consider discussing with them.

“But what I will not do, what I will not accept, is their criticism of what we have achieved in terms of safeguarding the union. Real achievements, real changes. Changes that my party has long sought.”

“We have restored Northern Ireland’s place within the United Kingdom’s internal market,” he said, adding: “There is no need for a so-called green lane. There is only a need for one lane, and that is the lane that deals with goods flowing through our Northern Ireland ports and onwards to the European Union or are deemed at risk of entering the European Union.”

Northern Ireland secretary Chris Heaton-Harris and DUP leader Jeffery Donaldson during a joint press conference (PA Wire)
Northern Ireland secretary Chris Heaton-Harris and DUP leader Jeffery Donaldson during a joint press conference (PA Wire)

New deal will safeguard NI’s place in the union - cabinet minister

Thursday 1 February 2024 16:00 , Matt Mathers

Northern Ireland secretary Chris Heaton-Harris told the Commons: “This package will safeguard and durably strengthen Northern Ireland’s integral place in the Union and the UK’s internal market, and do so by placing commitments in that package into law.”

He later told MPs: “This legislation will also change so that new regulatory borders between Great Britain and Northern Ireland cannot emerge from future agreements with the European Union.

“This is an important new safeguard to future-proof Northern Ireland’s constitutional status.

“No government in the future can agree to another protocol, nor can the UK internal market be salami-sliced by any future agreement with the European Union.”

Heaton-Harris at a press conference in Erskine House, Belfast (PA)
Heaton-Harris at a press conference in Erskine House, Belfast (PA)

MPs approve new Brexit legislation

Thursday 1 February 2024 15:36 , Matt Mathers

MPs have approved the second piece of legislation that gives effect to commitments made in the UK government’s Safeguarding The Union command paper.

The motion was approved unopposed.

The regulations will need to be approved by the House of Lords before they can become law. This is expected to take place on 13 February.

The first piece of legislation was approved earlier.

Cold-pressed vegetable juice-maker warns it may have to hike prices due to checks

Thursday 1 February 2024 14:57 , Matt Mathers

A company making cold-pressed vegetable juice has warned that it may have to increase its prices due to the extra costs associated with post-Brexit checks.

Alex Auger, founder of the Juice Executive said his company had already noticed a “significant reduction” in the quality of fresh produce coming in from the EU.

“Growers and suppliers are looking to fill up trucks to reduce the costs associated with the checks, and we anticipate this to get even worse,” he told The Independent.

“The combined result is higher prices, and worse quality which is not good for anyone.”

File photo: Vehicles queue for ferries at the Port of Dover, Kent (PA)
File photo: Vehicles queue for ferries at the Port of Dover, Kent (PA)

EU will have ‘some questions’ on government deal with DUP on post-Brexit trade

Thursday 1 February 2024 14:27 , Matt Mathers

The EU has “some questions” about a UK government deal to restore powersharing in Northern Ireland that pledges significant changes to post-Brexit trading arrangements, Ireland’s premier has said.

Leo Varadkar said that while the European Commission would have queries about the command paper, there were no suggestions on an initial assessment that it contained any “red flags”.

Full report:

EU will have ‘some questions’ on Government deal with DUP on post-Brexit trade

Tory MP hits out at ‘overzealous French officials’ over export issues

Thursday 1 February 2024 13:15 , Matt Mathers

A Tory MP has hit out at “overzealous French officials” and called for an improved arbitration process to challenge “ridiculous” export issues.

Conservative MP Anthony Mangnall said one of his Totnes constituents found himself in a “completely ridiculous situation” when his shipment was seized after he missed out one word on a certificate.

Environment Secretary Steve Barclay said a “proportionate approach” should be taken on these issues.

Speaking in the Commons, Mr Mangnall said: “A constituent of mine had his entire shipment seized in France for missing a single word on the export health certificate by overzealous French officials.

“Can the Secretary of State please reassure me that we are going to find arbitration methods to actually speed up the process to challenge these completely ridiculous situations?”

Mr Barclay said the MP had raised the issue with the farming minister (Mark Spencer) who he said is “actively engaged”, adding: “Of course, a proportionate approach should always be taken on these issues.”

Full report: Government to fast-track legislation through Commons to deliver on Stormont deal

Thursday 1 February 2024 11:37 , Matt Mathers

The government aims to fast-track two pieces of legislation through parliament on Thursday to deliver on the commitments made in its package aimed at restoring powersharing at Stormont.

It comes a day after the publication of measures that would end routine post-Brexit checks on goods shipped from Great Britain to final destinations in Northern Ireland.

Full report:

Government to fast-track legislation through Commons to deliver on Stormont deal

I wouldn’t change ‘anything' about Brexit, says Priti Patel

Thursday 1 February 2024 10:26 , Matt Mathers

Priti Patel has said she wouldn’t change “anything” about Brexit despite studies showing it has damaged the economy.

"I wouldn’t change anything around Brexit,”  the former home secretary told Nigel Farage’s GB News show. “The campaigns we held. And the case that we made"

She added: “You’ve asked four years on, where are we. If you look at the health and wellbeing of our economy: highest levels of employment. We’re doing trade outside of the EU"

“The world is also changing. It’s important we can stand on our own two feet. And I think we are doing that”.

ICYMI: Tory Brexiteer dismisses cost of new food checks as ‘price you pay’ for Brexit

Thursday 1 February 2024 09:53 , Matt Mathers

Conservative minister Andrea Leadsom has dismissed the concerns of business chiefs over the costly new checks imposed on imports from the EU as the “price you pay” for Brexit.

The leading Brexiteer defended the “friction” in the new system for physical checks at the border – describing it as “the costs of doing business”.

Full report:

Tory Brexiteer dismisses cost of new food checks as ‘price you pay’ for Brexit

MPs to pass statutory instruments to pave way for Stormont return

Thursday 1 February 2024 09:07 , Matt Mathers

MPs will later today pass two statutory instruments that will pave the way for Stormont to return.

Chris Heaton-Harris, the Northern Ireland secretary and Steve Baker, the NI minister, will lead two 90-minute debates on tweaks to the Windsor Framework.

These concern good moving between Great Britain and Northern Ireland and were scheduled to start at around 11.30am.

Recap: DUP agrees deal to end boycott of Northern Ireland government and restore powersharing

Thursday 1 February 2024 08:57 , Matt Mathers

Northern Ireland’s top unionist party have announced they will end their boycott of the government after more than 700 days following a mammoth overnight meeting.

Sir Jeffrey Donaldson, leader of the Democratic Unionist Party, emerged after 1am this morning to announce he had secured the “decisive” backing of his executive to resume power sharing with the nationalists.

Full report:

DUP agrees deal to end boycott of Northern Ireland government

Full report: Now Boris tries to sabotage his own bungled Brexit deal with new attack on Sunak

Thursday 1 February 2024 08:56 , Matt Mathers

Mr Johnson’s former Brexit negotiator Lord David Frost – believed to be part of a small cabal of right-wing MPs and ex-advisers plotting to bring down Mr Sunak – said he agreed with the former PM.

The trouble-making Tory peer warned that the new agreement with the DUP should not “slow” the push to diverge from the EU.

Under the new deal set out in Mr Sunak’s “Safeguarding the Union” paper, the “red lane” for transporting goods from GB to NI, and then on into the EU single market in the Republic of Ireland, will remain.

Full report:

Boris Johnson tries to sabotage his bungled Brexit deal in new attack on Sunak

Thursday 1 February 2024 08:55 , Matt Mathers

Good morning and welcome to The Independent’s rolling Brexit coverage.

MP will today pave the way for Stormont to return after the DUP agreed a new Brexit deal.

Stay tuned for the latest updates.