Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen have agreed on a new post-Brexit deal for Northern Ireland, calling it the Windsor Framework.
It was designed to address issues that have plagued Northern Ireland since the UK left the EU – and the so-called Northern Ireland Protocol came into force.
But what does the new deal imply?
This is an early view of what was announced by Mr. Sunak – we’ll bring you more when the full framework is published.
The deal will introduce two new routes for goods when traveling from Great Britain to Northern Ireland.
Goods traveling through the NI to reach the Republic of Ireland – which is in the EU – will pass through a red band, ensuring they pass all necessary customs checks before crossing the Irish Sea.
But products that are expected to remain in NI – and therefore the UK – will go the green route, which Mr. Sunak said he would see the current “heavy customs bureaucracy thrown out”, for example, without further documents.
The Prime Minister also said it would benefit people sending parcels to friends and family in the UK or buying products online as no customs documents would be required.
He promised that foods available on supermarket shelves in Britain would also be available in Northern Ireland.
Sunak said: “It means we’ve removed any sense of a border in the Irish Sea.”
taxes and medicines
The following is something Sunak says protects Northern Ireland’s place in the UK.
The legal wording of the protocol has been amended to ensure that the UK government’s decision on VAT and excise is also implemented in Northern Ireland.
Under the previous Brexit deal, these decisions were taken in Brussels as the region had to follow single market rules.
But now any changes in Westminster will take effect in Northern Ireland, with the Prime Minister using the example of the alcohol tax, “meaning that our reforms to cut the cost of a pint in the pub will now apply in Northern Ireland. “.
He said British products such as trees, plants and potato seeds will also be available again in Northern Ireland garden centres.
A ‘framework’ deal has been agreed on medicines, which means that medicines approved for use by the UK medicines regulator will automatically be available from all pharmacies and hospitals in Northern Ireland.
Good news for pet owners is that they can now travel without documentation from a veterinarian.
Perhaps the most politically significant element of the framework is this proposal, which, according to Sunak, “safeguards the sovereignty of the people of Northern Ireland”.
unionists, like the DUPare against any EU laws that must be followed in Northern Ireland, as Members of the Assembly have no say over them.
But to avoid the return of a hard border to the island of Ireland, others say some of the bloc’s laws will have to be followed going forward.
Sunak told reporters that some rules would remain, adding: “The only EU law that applies to Northern Ireland under the framework is the minimum necessary to avoid a hard border with Ireland and allow Northern Irish businesses to continue to access the EU market”.
However, what the Prime Minister has agreed with the EU is to give members of the Northern Ireland Assembly a say in any changes to EU law, offering them “the Stormont brake”.
Sunak said that if the brakes were pulled by politicians in NI, “the UK government would have a veto” on any change in bloc law that would affect them.
“This gives Northern Ireland’s Good Friday Agreement institutions a powerful new safeguard, based on community consent,” he added.
The detail of how this works could be decisive for the PM to gain support from the DUP and Brexiteer members of his own party.