A ‘decisive breakthrough’ has been made with the European Union on post-Brexit trade deals for Northern Ireland, the prime minister has confirmed.
Rishi Sunak unveiled the ‘new Windsor structure’ at a press conference with EU chief Ursula von der Leyen today, three years after the original Brexit deal.
Speaking on Monday, the British leader acknowledged that the UK and the EU “had our differences” but declared “the start of a new chapter in our relationship”.
The deal includes both green lane and red lane trade routes – with goods remaining in the UK using the green lane to avoid customs red tape and goods moving into the EU being sent via the red lane.
A ‘landmark’ deal on medicines was also promised, as medicines approved for use by the UK’s medicines regulator will automatically become available from all pharmacies and hospitals in Northern Ireland.
The deal comes with a new ‘Stormont brake’ – a measure intended to ‘safeguard’ Northern Ireland’s sovereignty.
“The elected assembly can halt changes to EU goods rules that would have significant and lasting effects on everyday life,” said Sunak. ‘When pulled, the UK government will have a veto.’
He pledged that his deal provides “smooth commerce across the UK, protects Northern Ireland’s place in our union and safeguards the sovereignty of the people of Northern Ireland”.
But there are still hurdles to overcome as Sunak must now try to win support from unionists and eurosceptic conservatives.
Parliament will have a vote on the deal “and that vote will be respected”, he announced today, after officials refused to confirm that would be the case.
Mrs. von der Leyen said the European Court of Justice (ECJ) is the ‘sole and final arbiter of EU law’ and will have the ‘final word’ on single market decisions.
‘Extensive consultations’ with the UK and Northern Ireland will regulate the system, he added.
The EU chief will take tea with the king at Windsor Castle, despite criticism that the meeting would drag Charles into the politically contentious deal.
The Prime Minister said: ‘For a quarter of a century, the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement has endured because, at its core, it respects the aspirations and identity of all communities. Today’s agreement aims to preserve that delicate balance and chart a new way forward for the people of Northern Ireland.’
After revealing the planned red and green stripes, he said: ‘Food retailers such as supermarkets, restaurants and wholesalers will no longer need hundreds of certificates for each truck and we will end up with the situation where food made according to the rules of the United Kingdom cannot be shipped and sold. in Northern Ireland.
‘This means that if the food is available on supermarket shelves in Britain, then it will be available on supermarket shelves in Northern Ireland.’
Continuing to reference the parcel shipping process and VAT, he added: ‘It means that we have removed any sense of border on the Irish Sea. Second, we protect Northern Ireland’s place in the Union.”
Mrs. von der Leyen said she was ‘proud’ to fulfill her commitment to resolve the issues with the Northern Ireland Protocol.
‘This new structure will allow us to start a new chapter,’ she said. ‘It provides lasting solutions that we are both confident will work for all people and businesses in Northern Ireland. Solutions that directly address the concerns they raised.’
The Prime Minister hopes the deal will gain the approval of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) so power sharing can be restored in Northern Ireland so that Stormont can get back up and running.
Sunak said he understood that the parties would want to consider the deal in detail, “a process that will take time and care”.
Party leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson said earlier: ‘We will take our time to consider the details and gauge a deal based on our seven tests.’
The value of the pound and the UK’s biggest companies fell as the Prime Minister and Mrs. von der Leyen began speaking at the press conference in Windsor.
Both the British pound and the FTSE 100 were trading earlier in the day in anticipation of a new Brexit deal, but they gave back some of those gains during the press conference.
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