By Connor Steel
PRIME MINISTER Rishi Sunak has announced that the Government has reached a new deal aimed at fixing post-Brexit issues concerning Northern Ireland; unveiling his document called the ‘Windsor Framework’ after a meeting with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen in the UK early on Monday afternoon.
The deal follows weeks of negotiations with the European Union as the Government sought to change major elements of the Northern Ireland Protocol, which was negotiated and passed into law under Boris Johnson’s tenure. Although welcomed at the time issues were raised about a range of elements; including unnecessary border checks, sovereignty of Northern Ireland and so called ‘invisible dividing trade line’ down the Irish Sea.
Speaking to MPs on Monday night Mr Sunak said the new deal would see two separate lanes created for the goods arriving in Northern Ireland from Great Britain. If goods are then going to other European Union nation they will go through the red lane and be subject to secure border checks as seen in the previous negotiation.
The green lane would be used for goods remaining in Northern Ireland and this would symbolise the removal of checks / paperwork currently required. A ban on certain products, such as chilled sausages, has also been revoked, meaning that customers in Northern Ireland have similar trading options to the remainder of the UK.
Northern Ireland would no longer have to follow certain EU regulations on factors such as Valued Added Tax (VAT) and alcohol duties, bringing the country back into parity with mainland Britain. This is said to ensure a sense of fairness of tax-payers, business and voters across the whole United Kingdom going forward in time.
There are no new requirements on moving pets from Northern Ireland to Britain, whilst pet owners will simply have to prove microchip status for access. Meanwhile medicines for use in Northern Ireland will be approved by an UK Regulator and parcels are unlikely to need full custom declarations to be posted over the Irish Sea.
The ‘Windsor Framework’ finally includes an addition of the so-called ‘Stormont Break’, allowing the Northern Ireland Assembly to raise objections to a new rule. It would be triggered by members and a process can then be followed; with the EU having a similar safeguard with powers to take all ‘appropriate remedial measures’.
Mr Sunak was cheered by Conservative MPs as he said the Northern Ireland Protocol Bill has “undermined” the Good Friday Agreement and balances of power-sharing, whilst saying the Windsor Framework will “chart a new way forward”. The PM also stated: “We have delivered what the people of Northern Ireland asked for”.
Full texts have yet to be released on the ‘Windsor Framework’ but MPs are due to be given a Commons vote either later this week or in early March; the PM keen to give colleagues a chance to examine the details. But it looks likely to pass as Labour pledged to support the new deal in the spirit of the ‘Good Friday Agreement’.
This is despite speculation of rebellion from Brexit-supporting Conservatives MPs including Steve Baker and indeed Suella Braverman; rumours circling that up to twenty backbenchers could go against their leader. The DUP have said they will reserve judgement, whilst the SNP and Liberal Democrats look set to reject the deal.
Readers are encouraged to visit media sites such as BBC News, Sky News and ITV News for all developing updates on the story, including any local reaction from MPs Dame Caroline Dinenage and Suella Braverman.
PICTURED BY ALAMY (2NRWD7G): Rishi Sunak and the EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen shake hands after a press conference at Windsor Guildhall, which confirmed landmark NI ‘Framework’ deal.