THE EU and UK have come to an agreement which they claim offers a “new way forward” on the ongoing issues that Britain’s exit from the EU has caused in Northern Ireland.
The Windsor Framework, agreed by Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and European Commission President Ursula Von Der Leyen yesterday, replaces the old Northern Ireland Protocol, by “providing a new legal and UK constitutional framework” for both parties to work within.
Announcing the deal, the Prime Minister said: “Today’s agreement is written in the language of laws and treaties. But really, it’s about much more than that.
“It’s about stability in Northern Ireland. It’s about real people and real businesses. It’s about showing that our Union, that has lasted for centuries, can and will endure.
“And it’s about breaking down the barriers between us.
“Setting aside the arguments that have for too long, divided us. And remembering the fellow feeling that defines us: This family of nations – this United Kingdom.”
The new Framework allows free-flowing trade in goods between Britain and Northern Ireland by removing border checks for goods staying within the UK.
These goods will now travel as normal through a new green lane without red tape or additional checks, apart from those designed to prevent smuggling or crime.
All goods destined for the EU will now use the red lane.
The new deal also replaces more than 1,700 EU laws with UK legislation placing Northern Ireland under the same tax policies on food and drink, medicines, and parcels, as the rest of the UK.
And a new Stormont Brake will allow the UK to veto any new EU goods laws if they are not supported by both communities in Northern Ireland.
Speaking after the new deal was announced, Ms Von Der Leyen said: “This new Framework will allow us to begin a new chapter.
“It provides for long-lasting solutions that both of us are confident will work for all people and businesses in Northern Ireland. Solutions that respond directly to the concerns they have raised.”
She added: “The new arrangements are delivering a comprehensive package so that we can address in a definitive way the issues faced in everyday lives - I will only mention two examples that I find most telling.
“Indeed, the new Windsor Framework will ensure that the same food will be available on supermarket shelves in Northern Ireland as in the rest of the UK. Furthermore, the new Windsor Framework will permanently enable all medicines, including novel ones, to be available in Northern Ireland at the same time, under the same conditions as in the rest of the UK.
“For this to work, we have agreed on safeguards like IT access, labels and enforcement procedures that will protect the integrity of the European Union's Single Market.
“The new Windsor Framework respects and protects our respective markets and our respective legitimate interests.
“And most importantly, it protects the very hard-earned peace gains of the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement for the people of Northern Ireland and across the island of Ireland.”