Intractable protocol problem awaits in Sunak's in-tray

2022-10-25 09:01:40 By : Ms. Sara Lei

We are almost back where we started three months ago.

Rishi Sunak led the voting among the Conservative parliamentary party in the final round of voting by MPs in July. Folding Stool

Intractable protocol problem awaits in Sunak's in-tray

In between we had TV debates, a month of hustings around the country, the Tory membership choosing Trussonomics despite warnings by Mr Sunak, the mini budget, market crash and Liz Truss' resignation.

Now, after the MPs have spoken again, Mr Sunak will become prime minister.

One big difference was that the hard Brexit right wing did not unite behind a candidate like it did for Ms Truss, allowing her to leapfrog Penny Mordaunt into second place in the final round.

She then went on to win the leadership through the vote of members rather than MPs.

Boris Johnson might have expected rightwing support for his own campaign, but not only did figures like Kemi Badenoch and Suella Braverman go for Mr Sunak, they also criticised the former prime minister's policies as fanciful.

When it came to the final two, the hard Brexit group the ERG said it was split between Mr Sunak and Ms Mordaunt and would not endorse either candidate.

However, chairperson Mark Francois said that both candidates promised to take a "robust' line on the Northern Ireland Protocol and to implement the bill to unilaterally rewrite it if necessary.

Steve Baker - a Sunak backer - recently apologised and ate "humble pie" for his attitude towards Ireland during Brexit.

However, he has now said that the original British line on the protocol must continue or the Eurosceptics will implode the government.

The hard Brexit line is that there must not be any corner of the United Kingdom where the EU has any say.

So that means no role for the European Court of Justice in settling disputes over rules on trade between Great Britain and the European Single Market as it passes through Northern Ireland.

It is a subtle difference to what has been the argument by Unionists - that they do not want to be treated differently than other parts of the UK.

There has always been a question mark as to whether the controversy over the Northern Ireland Protocol is being led from East Belfast or Westminster.

In Westminster, the ERG can claim the votes of up 80 MPs, which means it can hold the balance of power.

Mr Sunak will have a hard task in reconciling its demands with the EU's position that there must be oversight of trade rules in Northern Ireland.

Intractable protocol problem awaits in Sunak's in-tray

Rope Stanchion © RTÉ 2022. RTÉ.ie is the website of Raidió Teilifís Éireann, Ireland's National Public Service Media. RTÉ is not responsible for the content of external internet sites. Images Courtesy of Getty Images.