UPDATE 3 – Silence is broken, Boris Johnson says he will struggle to support new Brexit deal


Johnson breaks silence on Sunak’s deal


Says the EU still has too much control


Says he would struggle to vote for the deal

(Adds details, quotes)

By William James and Elizabeth Piper

LONDON, March 2 (Reuters) – Boris Johnson expressed contempt for Rishi Sunak’s new post-Brexit deal with the European Union for Northern Ireland on Thursday, saying the prime minister had allowed the bloc too much clout in the UK retain.

Sunak struck a new deal on Monday to ease trade restrictions in the British-administered province, partially lifting an earlier arrangement by Johnson that introduced checks and paperwork for goods coming from the rest of Britain.

Johnson, who was forced to resign as prime minister last year after a series of scandals, said it was his fault he didn’t realize how “heavy” the controls would be.

He said he would understand if politicians in the province chose to support the new deal in a bid to resume the region’s power-sharing meeting.

But Johnson, whose allies accuse Sunak of ousting him as prime minister, said the new deal didn’t go far enough and he would struggle to vote for it.

“I’m going to have a really hard time voting for something like that myself, because I think we should have done something different,” Johnson said, breaking his silence on the agreement in a speech at the 2023 Global Soft Power Summit.

“We need to be clear about what is really going on here. This is not about the UK taking back control… This is the graciously unyielding EU that allows us to do what we want in our own country. Not by our laws, but by theirs.”

Parliament will soon vote on the deal. While it should succeed with the backing of the opposition Labor party, an uprising in Sunak and Johnson’s Conservative Party could revive the deep ideological divisions that have sometimes paralyzed the government since the vote to leave the EU in 2016.

Sterling fell against the US dollar and euro following Johnson’s comments, extending losses from earlier in the day.


Sunak had hailed the deal as historic, one that will enable Britain to put the Brexit wranglings of recent years behind it and restore relations with both the EU and the United States after US President Joe Biden expressed concern about the political tensions developing in Northern Ireland.

Its success will likely depend on whether it can convince the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) to end its boycott of power-sharing arrangements in Northern Ireland. These were central to the 1998 peace agreement known as the Good Friday Agreement, which largely ended three decades of violence there.

Johnson said he hoped the province’s largest union party, the DUP, could reconcile with the proposal so it could return to the Stormont power-sharing meeting. The DUP has yet to say how it will vote.

Johnson, 58, the face of Britain’s Brexit campaign that has clashed for years with Brussels over the nature of the UK’s departure, has argued that an exit from the EU only makes sense if Britain radically revamps its economy. changes.

Sunak’s deal thwarted that goal, he said, because it allowed the EU to act as a “tow anchor” for Britain’s ability to deviate from the bloc’s rules and regulations.

“Brexit makes no sense unless you do things differently,” Johnson said.

Any diversion has been complicated by the need to keep the border open between Northern Ireland and EU member Ireland to uphold the peace deal. Johnson had argued for a tougher stance by sticking to a bill he had introduced that would all but tear up his original deal, the Northern Ireland protocol.

“Since we’re off the bill, I can understand why so many people are drawn to accepting a compromise,” he said.

(Additional reporting by Muvija M and Alistair Smout; editing by William Schomberg and Andrew Heavens)

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