UK’s PM Rishi Sunak and EU chief clinch Brexit deal over Northern Ireland trade
Diplomat Times (London)- Britain and the European Union on Monday agreed a crucial overhaul of trade rules in Northern Ireland, a breakthrough aimed at resetting seriously strained relations since Brexit.
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen adopted the deal at talks in Windsor, west of London, both sides said.
Von der Leyen told a news conference it was “historic what we have achieved today.” Sunak said there had been a “decisive breakthrough.”
The agreement, which will allow goods to flow freely to Northern Ireland from the rest of the U.K., ends a dispute that has soured U.K.-EU relations, sparked the collapse of the Belfast-based regional government and shaken Northern Ireland’s decades-old peace process.
"The same food will be available on supermarket shelves in Northern Ireland as in the rest of the UK.
The new 'Windsor Framework' respects our respective markets and, most importantly, protects the gains of the Good Friday Agreement."
— European Commission (@EU_Commission) February 27, 2023
Fixing it ends a long-running irritant for von der Leyen and is a big victory for Sunak — but not the end of his troubles. Selling the deal to his own Conservative Party and its Northern Irish allies may be a tougher struggle. Now Sunak awaits the judgment of Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party, which is boycotting the region’s power-sharing government until the trade arrangements are changed to its satisfaction.
The joint solutions, found within the framework of the Withdrawal Agreement, are based on the following starting points:
- Comprehensive, cross-cutting and definitive solution, addressing practical difficulties in the operation of the Protocol;
- Balance between flexibilities for the movement of goods for end use in Northern Ireland and effective safeguards guaranteeing the protection of the EU’s Single Market;
- Clear distinction between goods at risk and goods not at risk of entering the EU’s Single Market.
New arrangements in the area of customs are based on an expanded trusted trader scheme that will also be open to businesses in Great Britain
Goods moved by trusted traders and not at risk of entering the EU’s Single Market will benefit from dramatically simplified procedures and drastically simplified declarations with reduced data requirements. Substantial facilitations were found for freight and the movement of all types of parcels, i.e., business-to-business, business-to-consumer, and consumer-to-consumer, with consumer-to-consumer parcels being entirely exempt from the main customs requirements.
These new solutions are made possible especially by new data-sharing arrangements allowing for risk assessments, which would constitute the principle basis for controls. Robust authorisation and monitoring of the trusted trader scheme, and increased market surveillance and enforcement by UK authorities also act as safeguards. Full customs procedures will apply to goods at risk of entering the EU’s Single Market.
A permanent solution has also been found to ensure that people in Northern Ireland have access to all medicines, including novel medicines, at the same time and under the same conditions as people in the rest of the UK. This complements the solution the EU adopted in April 2022 for the supply of generic medicines to Northern Ireland.
These new arrangements are made possible by new safeguards, notably labelling, designed to ensure that the medicines do not enter the EU’s Single Market.
The joint solutions also address implementation difficulties related to tariff rate quotas (TRQs) for the most sensitive categories of steel and clarify the application of State aid rules.
These new arrangements have been carried out within the framework of the Withdrawal Agreement of which the Protocol on Ireland/Northern Ireland is an integral part. Within these pre-established legal parameters, a number of targeted amendments to the Protocol address, in a definitive way, unforeseen circumstances or deficiencies that have emerged since the start of the Protocol.
What is the Protocol Ireland/Northern Ireland ?
The Protocol on Ireland/Northern Ireland, as an integral part of the Withdrawal Agreement, was agreed jointly and ratified by both the EU and the UK. It has been in force since 1 February 2020 and has legal effects under international law.
The aim of the Protocol is to protect the Good Friday (Belfast) Agreement in all its dimensions, maintaining peace and stability in Northern Ireland, avoiding a hard border on the island of Ireland, while preserving the integrity of the EU Single Market.