Rishi Sunak was in Belfast on Tuesday (28 February) to seek support after securing a deal with the EU on post-Brexit trade with Northern Ireland. He later returned to London to answer questions from his party's MPs.
The Prime Minister agreed the ‘Windsor Framework’ on Monday (27 February), alongside European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, to make changes to the Northern Irelandprotocol. His next challenge is to win over the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), and secure the backing of the more Eurosceptic Tory backbenchers.
Today (1 March) he will face MPs at Prime Minister's Questions.
NI Brexit deal - latest updates
The Conservative former Cabinet minister Jacob Rees-Mogg has said that Rishi Sunak may not have done enough to persuade the Democratic Unionist Party to return to powersharing in Stormont.
He told ITV’s Good Morning Britain earlier: “From what I’ve heard, he (Rishi Sunak) has done very well, but I’m not sure he has achieved the objective of getting the DUP (Democratic Unionist Party) back into powersharing, which is the fundamental point of it.”
Sir Keir Starmer has said it is “almost inevitable” that any post-Brexit deal on Northern Ireland will include some oversight by the European Court of Justice (ECJ), an issue that has caused anger among Tory MPs and the DUP.
The Labour leader said “real changes” to the Brexit deal are needed in a relationship reset with the EU that must “go way beyond the protocol”.
He reiterated his party’s support for any deal won by Rishi Sunak, adding: “Yes, we haven’t seen the deal yet, but I’m completely across what the issues are and what the practical solutions are.
“Frankly, any step in those directions is going to be an improvement on what we’ve got, which is why I can say with confidence we expect to be able to back the deal.
“It’s not going to be a surprise, it’s not going to be out of the blue, we’ve been working on these problems for a very, very long time and know what some of the solutions are.
“Look, it’s almost inevitable that the ECJ will have to play some part in this, I think the Prime Minister recognises that, the Government recognises that, but we’ve got to make progress.”
Many Conservative MPs are keen to see the details of Rishi Sunak’s deal on the Northern Ireland Protocol - but as far as we know, the small print is still being kept tightly under wraps.
Those particularly interested in the details include members of the European Research Group (ERG) - a Parliamentary group made up of Tory MPs known for being Brexiteers and Eurosceptics.
One member, Bill Cash, told BBC’s Good Morning Ulster, that everyone in the group “is deeply concerned” about the deal because of “this subjugation of Northern Ireland and its voters to the laws of the EU.”
He continued: “We left the EU, we had a referendum with a result which was endorsed by the general election of 2019. So for practical purposes we are deeply concerned.”
He admitted that none of them had seen the deal - but insisted they “need to see the text” so they can properly form their viewpoint.
Buckingham Palace has confirmed that King Charles III will meet with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyer.
The pair, who have met before, will sit down to tea at Windsor Castle - with a range of topics expeted to be dicussed, including Ukraine and climate change.
It will come as a surprise to some after reports emerged over the weekend that the meeting had been cancelled. There were concerns that the timing of the meeting - which comes on the same day as Rishi Sunak’s discussions on the Northern Ireland Protocol - may be interpreted by some as an indication of the King giving his blessing on the deal.
This was refuted, with a government spokesperson telling PA Media: “It would be wrong to suggest the King would be involved in anything remotely political.”
Today, a royal spokesperson has commented: “The King is pleased to meet any world leader if they are visiting Britain and it is the government’s advice that he should do so.”
A series of government ministers and Conservative Party backbenchers have been spotted arriving at Downing Street - with the briefing operation on the Northern Ireland Protocol deal thought to be under way.
Elsewhere, business leaders are being filled in on the key details of the deal, ahead of the Prime Minister going public with it this afternoon.
The mood amongst the Tories also seems to be improving, with one MP, who is a promiment Brexiteer, telling the BBC: “I am very impressed! If this had been on offer at any time since 2017 I would have been delighted.
“Shows real determination to find a good way forward for Northern Ireland and the UK. I have some questions, but feel optimistic.”
Speaking outside Number 10 Downing Street, Northern Ireland minister Steve Baker told the BBC: “The Prime Minister is on the cusp of securing a really fantastic result for everyone else.”
As a Eurosceptic and former chair of the Tory European Research Group, Baker’s words will be hugely important to Rishi Sunak - considering previous reports of concerns that hardline Brexiteers will look to derail his deal.
The Prime Minister has tweeted to say he is ‘looking forward’ to meeting with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyer.
He said: “I’m looking forward to meeting @vonderleyen in Windsor today for further talks on the shared, practical solutions to the range of complex challenges around the Northern Ireland Protocol.”
The European Commission President also posted on her Twitter, writing: “I’m glad to be in the UK today to meet with Prime Minister @RishiSunak. I’m looking forward to turning a page and opening a new chapter with our partner and friend.”
Rishi Sunak has arrived at the Fairmont Hotel in Windsor Park, Berkshire, for talks on a new post-Brexit deal for Northern Ireland.
He arrived in an entourage of five cars accompanied by Metropolitan Police officers on motorcycles.
The Prime Minister is due to meet European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, before she later goes on to meet King Charles III at Windsor Castle.
Irish deputy leader Micheal Martin has said that European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen’s visit to London is a sign of “very significant and substantial progress” in the protocol negotiations between the UK and EU.
The foreign affairs minister also said there has been “a genuine attempt” to resolve the issues raised by unionists about the protocol - such as the bureaucratic barriers to goods being sent from Great Britain to Northern Ireland, and concerns about Northern Ireland’s place in the union.
“I would say that, genuinely, the European Union has listened to the concerns that have been articulated consistently by the DUP, the UUP, and others in Northern Ireland in respect of the operation of the protocol,” he said.
BREAKING: ‘The deal is done’ - Rishi Sunak and Von der Leyen finalise agreement on Northern Ireland Protocol
Rishi Sunak has signed a breakthrough deal with the European Union over post-Brexit trading arrangements for Northern Ireland.
The Prime Minister and European Commission President Ursula Von der Leyen finalised the long-awaited agreement to ease the trading issues created by the Northern Ireland Protocol during a summit at Windsor.
Sunak confirmed on his Twitter that he will be holding a press conference alongside Von der Leyen later this afternoon.
Meanwhile, the European Commission President will go on to have tea with the King at Windsor Castle.
Sunak’s next steps will be to ensure his deal wins the approval of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) - so that powersharing can be restored in Northern Ireland to get Stormont back up and running - and of Tory Brexiteers, to avoid an in-party rebellion.