This article was written for the News & Star.
I don’t think there is any doubt that Brexit has been the big political story in the UK for the best part of the last decade. Our country, in the largest vote of its history, decided to essentially change the way we governed ourselves and the place we had in the international sphere. But whatever your opinion on the actual vote itself, I think many people have become fed up with the wrangling and political bandwidth it has taken up over time.
Of course, it is not surprising that leaving the EU has taken up such time and effort – as our relationship with our largest trading partner and our closest allies is an important part of our national politics.
This is why the Conservative Party’s strategy of “Get Brexit Done” was popular amongst the electorate. However, it did mean that the issue of arrangements in Northern Ireland were left unresolved, which created a running sore between the UK and the EU. It essentially prevented a new working relationship from evolving following our departure from the bloc.
Now, however, we have a new agreement – and with it the prospect for a much better and constructive relationship with the EU.
I do think a lot of credit has to be given to the Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak. Rather than conducting negotiations in public, his Ministers, his Civil Servants, and he himself quietly but diligently got on with the negotiations.
And through discussing sensible, pragmatic, and realistic goals, a new agreement has been reached.
This will hopefully lead to the issues surrounding Northern Ireland and the greater United Kingdom’s relationship with the EU being resolved to the general satisfaction of all parties.
I think this pragmatism with results demonstrates the real strength that Rishi Sunak brings to the role of Prime Minister. By sorting this issue, one of the biggest blocks to reaching other agreements with the EU has been removed. I anticipate our relationship with the EU further improving, with benefits such as our continued involvement in the Horizon Project being part of a proper and constructive relationship we can have with bloc.
For the Conservative Government, I believe this agreement is an essential part of “getting Brexit done”. It allows the Government to move on and tackle some of the other big issues – primarily the small boat crossings, the war in Ukraine, and making sure our economy grows to tackle the cost of living.
The Prime Minister will rightly be judged on the results of his efforts, and not on the efforts alone. But I believe that this agreement has demonstrated his capacity to tackle difficult issues in a successful way. He will certainly have more tests to come, but if he approaches them with the same resolute manner I believe he can achieve what he has set out to.