RISHI Sunak has indicated that he could push ahead with the Windsor Framework even if the DUP refuses to support it.

The Prime Minister is in Belfast today to sell the deal agreed with the European Union yesterday.

The new agreement, which removes the Northern Ireland Protocol’s barriers on trade across the Irish Sea and hands a “brake” to politicians in Stormont to allow them to veto new EU law, has been mostly well-received. 

READ MORE: Biden hails UK and EU for reaching deal on protocol

However, it still includes a role for the European Court of Justice, which could prove difficult to thole for the DUP and some Brexiteer Tory backbenchers.

Speaking to the BBC this morning, Mr Sunak was asked if the framework would go ahead, regardless of the DUP’s position. 

“The framework is what we have agreed with the European Union. It’s an incredibly positive and comprehensive agreement, ensures that we have smooth flowing trade within the UK internal market,” he told the Today programme. 

“This is not necessarily about me or any one political party. This is about what’s best for the people in communities and businesses in Northern Ireland.”

The DUP has refused to take part in power-sharing at Stormont in protest at the Northern Ireland protocol agreed by Boris Johnson which effectively avoided a border on the island of Ireland by putting it down the Irish sea instead. 

Mr Sunak told BBC Radio 4’s Today that the role of EU law was for single market measures aimed at avoiding the need for a hard border with Ireland.

“In practical terms, something that is important to people in Northern Ireland is not having a border between Northern Ireland and the Republic, I think that’s important to everybody in fact, but also it’s important for businesses to have access to the EU single market,” he said.

“As long as the people of Northern Ireland consent to that arrangement, then that’s why there is a small and limited role for EU law in Northern Ireland – what we are talking about is less than 3 per cent of EU laws that apply in Northern Ireland and they apply very specifically for the purpose that I just mentioned.”

The Stormont brake means that “if there’s a new law that’s going to significantly impact people’s lives coming from the EU, they will be able to block it”.

Mr Sunak also said that border posts for checks on goods crossing the Irish Sea were mainly aimed at consignments destined for Ireland and the EU – the so-called “red lane”.

READ MORE: What is in the Windsor Framework – Sunak’s new Brexit deal?

“The border posts are there very specifically for the red lane. Because as part of having a green lane, where goods flow freely within our UK internal market, if goods are actually going to the Republic of Ireland, ie going into the EU, well, that’s not our country and it’s entirely reasonable, that we have checks for those types of goods.

“And we also check when we suspect criminality or smuggling. And that’s something that the Government’s always said that it would do and has been long-standing practice, actually.”

In the green channel, for goods remaining in the UK, “there won’t be routine checks” but “there will be checks where we suspect criminality or smuggling”.

He said it was important to restore powersharing and to provide “stability” in Northern Ireland following the shooting last week of an off-duty police officer in Omagh.

Police are investigating an unverified claim by a dissident republican group, the New IRA, that they carried out the attack which left Detective Chief Inspector John Caldwell fighting for his life.

“People in Northern Ireland need and deserve their government to be up and running. That is what democracy is about,” he said.

“Stability in Northern Ireland is really important and it (the shooting) is a reminder of that.”

READ MORE: Sunak scraps Johnson’s controversial Northern Ireland Protocol Bill

DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson agreed that there had been progress. 

“We’re reasonable people but we want to ensure that what the Prime Minister has said is matched by what is actually in the agreement itself, can it deliver on the areas of concern that we set out in our seven tests?” he told Today.

Sir Jeffrey said Northern Ireland should have unfettered access to the GB market, and if changes to EU law were to impact that, “then it is right that Stormont has a brake and that we’re able to ultimately veto any new such law”.

He insisted the brake would not be used for “trivial reasons”.“We want to do it in circumstances where a change to law would impact on our ability to trade with the rest of the United Kingdom, and that certainly is no trivial matter,” he added.

The problem for Sir Jeffrey is that some of his party are less enthusiastic about the framework than he is. 

In the Commons on Monday, DUP hardliner Sammy Wilson said he still “fears our position in the United Kingdom is not going to be restored” by the agreement.

Foreign Secretary James Cleverly, one of the architects of the deal, said it would be “hugely disappointing” if the DUP does not return to the Stormont powersharing executive.

“I think they will know that I have been very, very focused on the concerns they have expressed on behalf of their community,” he told Sky News.

“They will have real authority when it comes to the Stormont brake.

“If they don’t re-enter the powersharing executive, that will be hugely disappointing. It won’t be good news for the people of Northern Ireland.”