Rishi Sunak said his government was “doing its best” to secure a deal on the Northern Ireland Protocol.
“There is unfinished business on Brexit and I want to get it done,” the prime minister told The Sunday Times, adding that it was crucial to ensure a return to power-sharing.
He said he would try to allay the concerns of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), which is concerned about maintaining the European Union’s influence in Northern Ireland.
The DUP refuses to participate in Stormont’s devolved government alongside Sinn Fein in protest at the impact of the Brexit treaty on trade between Northern Ireland and the UK.
The party released seven tests that Mr. SunakThe pact will need to come together to gain his support, including addressing what he calls Northern Ireland’s “democratic deficit”, which is governed by EU rules without being affected by them.
Mr Sunak promised that “everything we do will tick all those boxes” in terms of unionists.
The momentum has built up over weeks of tense talks and an agreement to ease trade controls under the Northern Ireland Protocol is expected within days.
Conservative MPs were they were told they had to be at Westminster on Mondaysuggesting a deal may be imminent.
The Irish equivalent of Mr. Sunak, Leo Varadkarhe said they were “close to a deal” on the deal.
“I think the protocol reform talks are coming to a conclusion,” the Irish prime minister said.
“Of course, the deal is not done yet, but I think we are getting close to a conclusion.
“There is the possibility of an agreement in the next few days, but it is by no means guaranteed… There is still a gap to be filled,” Varadkar said, adding that the UK government and the European Commission are in the process.
Varadkar, who was instrumental in agreeing the protocol in 2019, urged politicians in London, Brussels and Northern Ireland to “go the extra mile” to reach an agreement, saying the benefits would be “enormous”.
The deal would end a two-year standoff between the UK and the EU, but Sunak could put up a fight with pro-Brexit Tories and union politicians from Northern Ireland to make the deal work.
King Charles was to meet von der Leyen
It comes after Sky News’s deputy political editor Sam Coates revealed that there was a King Charles lined up at number 10 for a meeting with the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen on Saturday, when negotiations on the protocol were to be concluded.
The king was to play a key role in the final phase of the negotiations – although there was no indication that he would take part in the talks.
The move could have been interpreted as the king giving his blessing to the negotiations or even approving the deal if it had been done this morning, but it was canceled on Friday.
There was also talk of calling the potential deal the “Windsor Deal”.
Read more: What is the Northern Ireland Protocol and why does it matter?
PM ‘naive’ to ‘draw King into highly controversial political issue’
DUP MP Sammy Wilson said any meeting in Windsor with the EU leader would be a “cynical exploit” of the king’s position and would be seen in unionist circles as a ruler supporting the deal.
He called Sunak “naive” and accused him of “dragging the king into an extremely controversial political issue.”
“The only conclusion we can come to is that he (Mr Sunak) knows that he has not achieved the goals he has set for himself and his own party in these negotiations,” Wilson told Sky News.
“He also failed to keep the promises he made to us, and now he was trying to get the king to drag the matter out for him.”