DAILY MAIL COMMENT: Rishi Sunak’s vaunted Brexit deal could be a landmark achievement
As the dust settles on Rishi Sunak’s vaunted Brexit deal, it is increasingly apparent that it could genuinely be a landmark achievement.
When it comes to any major change in the vexed politics of Northern Ireland, it’s wise not to declare victory too soon.
But the fact that the Unionists have not already rushed to protest suggests the Windsor Framework may yet be a considerable triumph for Mr Sunak.
Through diplomacy and strength of vision he appears to have changed the political weather – not just here but in Brussels, too.
Where once there was relentless hostility over Britain’s decision to leave the EU, he has overseen his own version of detente.
Britain’s Prime Minister Rishi Sunak holds a Q&A session with local business leaders during a visit to Coca-Cola HBC in Lisburn, Co Antrim, in Northern Ireland
Crucially, the framework frees trade between Great Britain and Northern Ireland from the tangle of red tape it was ensnared in, without conceding sovereignty.
The revised protocol means the province should be able to reap all the benefits of the European single market, while also unleashing a wave of investment and enjoying unfettered trade within the UK.
True, sticking points remain. There are questions over the role of the European Court of Justice in the arbitration of disputes. This is something the DUP is naturally suspicious of. Its leaders are understandably poring over the deal’s small print to expose any potential traps.
The DUP is hardly synonymous with the concept of compromise, but knowing when to accept victory is a crucial political skill. The revised agreement undoubtedly cements Northern Ireland’s place within the UK.
The deal vindicates Boris Johnson’s threat to unilaterally scrap the protocol. That focused minds in Brussels and got the EU around the negotiating table.
The shooting of a policeman in Omagh last week by Republican terrorists also served as a vivid reminder of the danger of ignoring sectarian passions 25 years after the Good Friday Agreement. There are still those on both sides of the divide who seek to return the province to its troubled past.
It’s too soon to put out the bunting but first impressions are that Mr Sunak has pulled off a seemingly impossible feat.
He must now take that momentum and use the same skills to tackle the other mountainous problems facing the country.
His first task is to turbocharge Brexit. So far our attempts to exploit our regained freedoms for the national good have been distinctly half-hearted, not buccaneering.
Mr Sunak is visiting Northern Ireland to sell the Windsor Framework deal secured with the European Union
The PM could start by axing the six-point hike in corporation tax to 25 per cent (it’s 12.5 per cent in the Republic of Ireland). If the Government is sincere in its claim that it is trying to stimulate growth, then such a ruinous charge on business defies belief.
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He could also use some of the unexpected £30billion Treasury windfall to cut personal taxation, putting more money into people’s pockets and encouraging them to spend.
Next, he should deploy the formidable grasp of detail and political courage that helped him clear the final Brexit obstacle when confronting the small boats crisis.
Public concern about illegal immigration is sky-high and tackling it must be near the top of his agenda. More cordial relations with the EU could improve co-operation against people-smuggling gangs.
The PM must also get on the front foot when dealing with the striking unions, NHS backlogs and the stultifying scourge of wokery that poisons public life.
Since entering No10, Mr Sunak has proved himself credible and competent. His bold opposition to gender reforms has seen off Nicola Sturgeon in Scotland.
And there is no genuine affection among voters for untrustworthy Sir Keir Starmer, who holds no belief that he won’t change in the name of political expedience.
With the Tories miles behind in the polls, the time for complacency is long gone. But there is a chance the Windsor Framework could be a turning point in their fortunes.