Blog: MPs pass key part of Rishi Sunak’s Northern Ireland Brexit deal amid Tory rebellion – POLITICO Europe

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LONDON — A key part of Rishi Sunak’s Northern Ireland Brexit deal has sailed through the House of Commons despite a small Conservative rebellion.

The House of Commons voted 515 to 29 in favor of the plan, after the opposition Labour, Scottish National Party and Liberal Democrats also voted to support the so-called Stormont Brake — a part of the U.K.-EU Windsor Framework that aims to fix issues with the post-Brexit Northern Ireland protocol.

Twenty-two Tory MPs — including former prime ministers Liz Truss and Boris Johnson — voted against the proposal. However, Commons records show 48 other Tories either abstained or were excused from the vote.

The vote will be seen as a victory for Sunak, with the eventual Tory rebellion smaller than some had predicted. Conservative votes alone would have been enough to win the day for his government, even without the support of opposition parties.

A Brexiteer and former Cabinet minister in Johnson’s government said the vote showed “the party is increasingly united behind Rishi and definitely willing to give him credit where it’s due.”

“The parliamentary party feels the proximity of the next general election and is getting its act together,” they added.

The Stormont Brake is intended to allow the currently-deadlocked Northern Ireland Assembly to object to new EU regulations set to apply in the region — a key concern for Northern Irish unionists who do not want to be separated further from the rest of the U.K.

Under the post-Brexit set-up in Northern Ireland, the region still follows EU customs union and single market rules, unlike the rest of the U.K., in a bid to avoid a harder border with the Republic of Ireland.

The eight MPs from Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) also voted against the brake Wednesday and are maintaining their opposition to Sunak’s wider deal — known as the Windsor Framework — for now. And they are refusing to reconvene the Northern Ireland Assembly.

‘End chapter’

Many Conservative MPs speaking in the Commons before the vote argued that the party simply had to move on from the rancorous Brexit debates of the past decade.

Conservative MP and former Northern Ireland secretary Julian Smith called for Wednesday to mark “the end chapter” of parliament’s Brexit battle.

A visibly angry Vicky Ford, Tory MP and minister under Johnson, said in the Commons that “the people of Northern Ireland and indeed the people of the U.K. need to move on and focus on more important things.”

Former Cabinet minister and Brexiteer Andrea Leadsom said MPs would have “bitten [the EU’s] arms off” if offered this deal on Northern Ireland seven years ago.

But committed Tory Eurosceptics took aim at the government, with senior MP Bill Cash telling the House of Commons: “We have left the EU… and yet all laws passed before we left in relation to the single market still apply to and subjugate the people of Northern Ireland to the EU.”

DUP MPs meanwhile launched impassioned cases against the Windsor Framework in the same debate.

DUP MP Sammy Wilson said “this is not a Stormont brake, it’s a Stormont fake” and complained that Westminster has to green light any veto that the Northern Ireland Assembly tries to take on new EU laws.

The party’s leader Jeffrey Donaldson said: “The continued application of EU law in Northern Ireland creates a problem for us in trading in the internal market of the United Kingdom.

“I want Stormont restored on a sustainable basis, on a stable basis.”

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