Post-Brexit deal on Northern Ireland: The Windsor Framework

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Windsor Framework
Windsor Framework

The Windsor Framework

The Windsor Framework: What is in the new post-Brexit deal on Northern Ireland?

it is designed to tackle the issues impacting Northern Ireland since the UK left the EU – and the so-called Northern Ireland Protocol came into force.

But what does the new deal entail?

This is an early look at what has been announced Sunak.

The agreement in principle reached by the UK and EU regarding the Windsor Framework.

The agreement will introduce two new routes for goods when they are travelling from Great Britain into Northern Ireland.

Products which are travelling through NI to get to the Republic of Ireland – which is in the EU – will go via a red lane, ensuring they pass all the customs checks they need to before crossing the Irish Sea.

But products which are set to stay in NI – and therefore in the UK – will go via a green lane, which Mr Sunak said would see the current “burdensome customs bureaucracy scrapped”, e.g. no more documents.

Perhaps the most politically significant element of the framework is this proposal, which Mr Sunak says “safeguards sovereignty for the people of Northern Ireland”.

Unionists, such as the DUP, are against any EU laws having to be followed in Northern Ireland as members of the Assembly do not have a say over them.

Sunak told reporters some rules would remain, adding: “The only EU law that applies in Northern Ireland under the framework is the minimum necessary to avoid a hard border with Ireland and allow Northern Irish businesses to continue accessing the EU market”.

However, what the PM has agreed with the EU is to give members of the Northern Ireland Assembly a say on any changes to EU law by offering them “the Stormont brake”.

If 30 members of the NI Assembly across two parties vote against a change or new law, the brake is pulled, it gets stopped and the Westminster government steps in.

They will argue out the case with the EU in a joint committee and decide whether it should be adopted across the whole of the UK, or be vetoed – meaning it would not come into force anywhere across the country.

However, it is not yet clear what happens if the two sides cannot agree, with the documents published so far only saying it would be solved through a process of “independent arbitration”.

Sunak said the brake “gives the institutions of the Good Friday Agreement in Northern Ireland a powerful new safeguard, based on cross-community consent”.

But the detail of how this works could be make or break for the PM to get the support of the DUP and Brexiteer members of his own party.

A summary of today’s developments

  • Rishi Sunak has given a statement in the House of Commons after unveiling a deal with the EU on post-Brexit trading arrangements in Northern Ireland. He said the deal “permanently removes any sense of a border in the Irish Sea”.
  • The PM said the agreement delivers the smooth flow of trade within the the UK, protects Northern Ireland’s place in the Union and that the legal text of the protocol has been amended to ensure critical VAT and excise changes for the whole of the UK can be made and “safeguards sovereignty for the people of Ireland”.
  • Sir Keir Starmer says Labour will back the deal which he says will improve the UK’s international standing.
  • Boris Johnson is believed to still be considering the new deal on the protocol negotiated by Rishi Sunak. A source close to the former prime minister told PA he is continuing to study and reflect on the government’s proposals.
  • Ed Davey, the Lib Dem leader, says the party will now study the deal but welcomes the spirit of “partnership and compromise”.
  • The Democratic Unionist party (DUP) withheld judgment on the deal to end the dispute over the post-Brexit Northern Ireland protocol. Sir Jeffrey Donaldson welcomed “significant progress” in the UK-EU deal but cautioned that concerns remained and said the party would take time to analyse the text.
  • DUP MP Ian Paisley told Newsnight that the deal “does not cut the mustard”.
  • Former prime minister Theresa May called on her colleagues to support the Windsor framework in the vote.
  • Downing Street declined to confirm whether MPs will get a straight yes or no vote on Rishi Sunak’s Windsor framework. The prime minister’s spokesperson said “there will be a vote”, but did not give details on timing or in what form. Pressed on timing, he said: “Our intent is to allow parties and parliamentarians to have the proper time to consider this before bringing forward a vote.”
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