Rishi Sunak heads to Belfast to sell Northern Ireland trade deal

UK prime minister Rishi Sunak has arrived in Belfast for meetings with business leaders to sell his post-Brexit trade deal for Northern Ireland after a guarded response from the region’s main unionist party.

Sunak unveiled the so-called Windsor framework with European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen on Monday, hailing it as a “new chapter” after years of fraught relations with the EU.

The Democratic Unionist party, the region’s largest pro-UK force, welcomed the fact that the deal had gone beyond what the EU initially said was possible, but its leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson said he would pore over the fine print before giving his verdict.

The DUP has boycotted the power-sharing assembly and executive at Stormont since last May to press its demands for sweeping changes to the arrangements, formerly known as the Northern Ireland protocol.

It was not immediately clear whether the party would endorse the new agreement and restore the political institutions. Some senior figures in the DUP said Sunak’s deal did not go far enough.

Sunak maintains the deal will slash trade bureaucracy and reduce the role of EU law and the European Court of Justice in Northern Ireland, as well as giving the region’s assembly at Stormont a say over new EU rules.

The Brexit treaty will be recast to include a new “emergency brake”, allowing the UK — at the request of 30 members from at least two parties in the Northern Ireland legislative assembly — to oppose updates to new EU goods law in exceptional circumstances.

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