Windsor Framework: Rishi Sunak hails ‘real breakthrough’ on Northern Ireland Protocol

Windsor Framework: Rishi Sunak hails ‘real breakthrough’ on Northern Ireland Protocol

The prime minister has today unveiled a new Windsor Framework agreement with the European Union which he has heralded as a “decisive breakthrough” on the Northern Ireland Protocol impasse. 

The new framework was announced at a joint press conference attended by the prime minister and the president of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen. Commenting at the press conference, Mr Sunak said the two sides have “changed the original protocol and are today announcing the new Windsor Framework”.

He said: he was “standing here today because I believe we have found ways to end the uncertainty and challenge for the people of Northern Ireland”.

The prime minister outlined “three big steps forward” on a protocol deal. 

The first step forward will ensure the “smooth flow of trade within the United Kingdom” through the adoption of green lane and red lane trade routes. 

According to the prime minister, the second step will see the UK and EU protect “Northern Ireland’s place in the union” and amend “the legal text of the protocol” so that duty and VAT decisions apply to the whole of the UK.

The third step then “safeguard[s] sovereignty for the people of Northern Ireland”. In order to ensure this, Mr Sunak spoke of a new “Stormont brake” which would allow the Northern Ireland Assembly to stop changes being made to EU goods rules. Mr Sunak said: “If the brake is pulled, the UK Government will have a veto”.

The prime minister described the proposals as a “turning point” for Northern Ireland that would end uncertainty.

Also speaking at the press conference on Monday afternoon, Ms von der Leyen said she and the prime minister were delivering on an “important commitment we made to each other a few months ago” to agree a deal on improving the Northern Ireland Protocol.

She said they had been “honest with each other about the difficulties” and “we knew it was not going to be easy” to reach an agreement.

She added that the new “Windsor Framework” sets out “long-lasting solutions” to post-Brexit border problems.

At the heart of the new agreement is a system of “green lanes” and “red lanes” for trade. It will see British goods use the “green lane” at ports in Northern Ireland, meaning they will not have to be checked and therefore require minimal paperwork. Goods staying in the UK therefore will avoid unnecessary customs bureaucracy, while goods moving to the EU will use a red lane and receive further checks. 

The prime minster also confirmed that MPs will be given a binding vote on his new Brexit deal.

He told reporters: “Yes, Parliament will have a vote at the appropriate time and that vote will be respected. But as I said earlier I think it is important that we give everyone the time and the space they need to consider the detail of the framework that we haver announced today because it is comprehensive in nature and that will take time for people to digest.

“But ultimately this isn’t necessarily about me, it is not about politicians, it is about the people in Northern Ireland, it is about what is best for them.”

The attention will now turn to whether the European Research Group of eurosceptic MPs will accept the agreement — alongside their allies in the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP). 

It follows years of wrangling on the Northern Ireland protocol, which was introduced as a means of avoiding a hard border on the island of Ireland after the Brexit transition period ended on 31 December 2020.  

It has seen Northern Ireland has to stick to some EU rules to allow goods to move freely into the Republic and the rest of the EU.

The trading relationship has angered both Conservative Brexiteers and unionists in Northern Ireland, the largest representative of whom is the DUP. The party argues that the agreement creates a border between Britain and Northern Ireland and their party representatives in Stormont have collapsed power-sharing in the six counties until a new settlement is reached. 

Downing Street has previously said that it is not expecting an immediate judgement from the DUP after today’s events, with the party likely to take time to study any deal’s details. The party has published seven tests for judging whether a deal will be accepted.

Labour has repeatedly ensured the prime minister that he can, in all likelihood, rely on their votes in any commons tussle between backbench eurosceptics and the government. 

Shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves told Sky News this morning that there should be a debate and vote on any deal to give it “legitimacy”, adding that the prime minister does not have to worry about the “malcontents” within his own party to get the deal passed.

She said: “The best thing would be to have cross-party support from right across the political spectrum for this deal, and I hope that the prime minister can secure that”.


Spread the love