The GuardianThe Guardian

We may at last have a protocol deal, but we are no further away from Brexit’s poisonous legacy

By Polly Toynbee

27 Feb 2023 · 5 min read

Editor's Note

Rishi Sunak and Ursula von der Leyen have agreed on post-Brexit trade rules for Northern Ireland. As details of the deal emerge, the Guardian’s Polly Toynbee cautions against premature celebrations.

Dither, dawdle and delay: the deal has been waiting there “on the cusp”, but at last the patient European Commission president, Ursula von der Leyen, arrived to sign. What’s been the hold-up? In Brussels they feared that every passing day allowed Brexit fantasists to further rally their troops. Meanwhile, Rishi Sunak prevaricated in fear of his headbangers and the Democratic Unionist party held him to ransom by paralysing the government at Stormont.

But before everyone plunges deep into Northern Irish politics, the details of the protocol and this deal’s diplomatically subtle wording, remember this: all the deal does is prevent Brexit turning into the trade war that Boris Johnson built into his hand-grenade protocol bill. Slight easements on the Irish sea border and better relations with our neighbours still leave Britain and its great Brexit calamity much where it was, but at least no worse off.

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