Rishi Sunak’s Brexit deal will be formally signed off today despite opposition from Tory and DUP MPs. Foreign Secretary James Cleverly and the European Commission’s Maros Sefcovic will chair an official meeting in London that will see the UK and the EU formally adopt the new arrangements for Northern Ireland.
MPs on Wednesday passed regulations to implement the Stormont brake, a key part of the Windsor Framework.
The mechanism would allow MLAs in the Stormont Assembly to formally flag concerns about the imposition of new EU laws in Northern Ireland – a move that could see the UK Government veto their introduction in the region.
But former prime ministers Boris Johnson and Liz Truss joined the DUP and Conservative MPs from the European Research Group in voting against the deal.
A further 48 Tory MPs abstained – although some would have had permission to be away from Westminster.
The formal sign-off comes as Sir Jeffrey Donaldson’s party continues to oppose the agreement struck with the EU last month, with no sign of the DUP yet being willing to return to powersharing in Stormont.
Northern Ireland Secretary Chris Heaton-Harris warned the DUP that there was no prospect of renegotiating the deal ahead of Friday’s meeting.
It comes after Brussels also formally agreed to the key parts of the Windsor Framework at a Council of the EU meeting.
The formal sign-off will come at a Withdrawal Agreement Joint Committee meeting, with the Foreign Secretary and Mr Sefcovic also set to attend a meeting of the partnership council – another of the implementation bodies under the Brexit deal.
Mr Cleverly said: “By formally approving the Windsor Framework, we are delivering on our commitment to provide stability and certainty for Northern Ireland.
“The framework is the best deal for Northern Ireland, safeguarding its place in the Union and protecting the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement.
“I look forward to further effective co-operation with the EU on key issues, such as security and energy.”
The continuing stand-off over Stormont suggests the prospects for a return to powersharing in time for the 25th anniversary next month of the Good Friday Agreement remain bleak.
The DUP walked out last year in protest at the Northern Ireland Protocol.
The protocol was designed to prevent a hard Irish border after Brexit.
But it has angered unionists as it moved regulatory and customs checks to the Irish Sea, creating economic barriers on the movement of goods between Great Britain and Northern Ireland.
Britain and Brussels agreed the framework last month as a way to cut the red tape created by the protocol.