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Top Stories: Rishi Sunak's Northern Ireland Deal Hits Resistance, Ministers Blamed For NHS Walkouts

Rishi Sunak is reportedly set to announce a new deal on post-Brexit trade (Alamy)

6 min read

Rishi Sunak is facing inevitable resistance over his plans to renegotiate the Northern Ireland Protocol after the DUP indicated it would not support a new deal.

The Prime Minister had reportedly hoped to announce details of a new deal as soon as today, which would break the impasse over the controversial post-Brexit trade arrangements.

On Saturday, Sunak and European Commission Vice President Ursula von der Leyen had a "positive" discussion about the negotiations in which they "agreed that there had been very good progress to find solutions", the pair said in a joint statement in Munich.

But Northern Ireland's Democratic Unionist Party, whose approval of the deal is integral to its success, has warned they would continue to refuse to let the Stormont Assembly sit if the deal is agreed without their consent.

Speaking to Sky News, DUP MP Sammy Wilson said: "Essentially if a deal is agreed which still keeps us within the EU Single Market, as ministers in the Northern Ireland Assembly we would be required by law to implement that deal.

"And we're not going to do that because we believe that such an arrangement is designed to take us out of the United Kingdom and indeed would take us out of the United Kingdom because increasingly we would have to agree EU laws which diverge from UK laws and in doing so would separate our own country from the rest of the United Kingdom."

Former prime minister Boris Johnson reportedly intervened on Sunday, to express his opposition.

"His general thinking is that it would be a great mistake to drop the Northern Ireland Protocol Bill," a source told Sky News

The bill is highly controversial as it would give UK ministers the powers to unilaterally tear up parts of the Northern Ireland Protocol without the approval of Brussels. It was introduced during Johnson's premiership, when talks with the EU were failing to make progress.

Failure to secure the DUP support would likely increase concerns among Leave-supporting Conservative MPs, with former cabinet minister Jacob Rees-Mogg saying the Northern Irish party would not accept a "fait accompli" Brexit deal.

"I am slightly concerned that we are in a situation we were in before where the government says officially there is nothing being agreed and we hear from journalists that they are being briefed that actually an agreement has been broadly come to and I don't think that is a brilliant way of getting the DUP on board," he told the BBC.

"I think you need to get the DUP on board first and then go to talk to Brussels rather than try and bounce the DUP because the DUP doesn't respond well to being bounced."

Ambulance Union Bosses Attack "Tin-Eared" Ministers For Refusing To Talk

Over 11,000 members of the GMB union in England and Wales along with others from the Unite union have gone on strike today as negotiations remain frozen over pay and working conditions.

Ambulance workers are the first to go on strike in yet another wave of health worker walkouts, with junior doctors set to go on strike next month.

Speaking to The Guardian, Jeremy Farrar, the incoming chief scientist of the World Health Organisation, said healthcare workers were "absolutely shattered".

"This is a global issue, which I think is hugely concerning," he said. "It's certainly true in this country. The resilience of healthcare workers, broadly defined from ambulance drivers to nurses to doctors, to care workers in social care, etc. They're shattered. They are absolutely shattered."

He added that morale and resilience was "very thin" among healthcare workers, with further nursing and ambulance strikes due to go ahead next month.

Philip Banfield, the British Medical Association's chair of council, said ministers were "standing on the precipice of an historic mistake" as he accused the government of failing to hold meaningful talks with unions.

Amublance workers on strike"Doctors have never experienced so much stress, so much moral injury from not being able to undertake the care that they're so desperate to give," he said.

"This government, with its silence and disregard for our highly skilled and expert workforce, is consciously and deliberately overseeing the demise of the NHS at a point when it is needed most."

The comments have been echoed by union leaders, with GMB national secretary Rachel Harrison saying walk outs would continue because of the government's "tin-eared" approach to talks.

"It's been over a month since the government engaged in any meaningful dialogue," she said.

"They are missing in action and refuse to talk pay."

She added: "Solving the issue of pay is vital if we're going to stem the tide of dedicated healthcare workers leaving the profession."

Senior Tory MP Damian Green Rejected As Election Candidate

Former cabinet minister Damian Green said he was "disappointed" after being rejected as the party's candidate for the newly created Weald of Kent constituency.

The senior Conservative, who has been an MP since 1997 and now leads the One Nation caucus of centrist Conservative MPs, tweeted: "I am disappointed not to have been adopted as the Conservative candidate for the new Weald of Kent seat.

"I am now thinking about what to do next and how I can best continue to work for the people of Ashford and support the Government."

His rejection has fuelled speculation that moderate Conservative MPs who were involved in bringing down Boris Johnson as prime minister could be targeted in selection battles.

David Campbell Bannerman, who chairs the Conservative Democratic Organisation, which claims it wants to "restore democracy" in the party, tweeted on Sunday: "There is now hard evidence MPs allegedly associated with bringing down Boris are being directly held to account and punished by members."

He added: "There are at least 60 MPs who might be getting a little nervous now? Revenge of the membership?"

Sally Ann-Hart, the Tory MP for Hastings and Rye and who was also a vocal critic of Johnson, announced last month that she had also not been reselected to contest her seat at the next election.

Green could still put his name forward on the long-list of candidates which would be put to a vote of the wider constituency membership.

Ukrainian girl hosted by Ed Balls and Yvette Cooper to compete in UK dance competition

Ed Balls on Strictly
Ed Balls competed on Strictly Come Dancing in 2016 (Alamy)

Yeva Kenia, a 12-year-old Ukrainian girl, was offered sanctuary in the home of former secretary of state Ed Balls and current shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper

She will now get the chance to compete in a dance competition in Blackpool, according to the Mirror.

The couple decided to host Yeva and her mother Katerina at their home in Castleford, West Yorkshire, as part of the government's Homes for Ukraine scheme after Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2020. 

Balls previously competed in Strictly Come Dancing and his dance partner Katya Jones helped to facilitate the connection between him and his wife with Yeva and Katerina.

Yeva and her dance partner Zakhar performed at Balls and Cooper’s silver wedding anniversary party in January, with guests including London Mayor Sadiq Khan and former Prime Minister Gordon Brown.

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