London (CNN) Britain and the EU have reached an agreement on new trade rules Northern Ireland In an attempt to resolve a thorny issue that has fueled post-Brexit tensions in Europe and the island of Ireland.
The deal could resolve the issue of imports and border checks in Northern Ireland, one of the most challenging and contentious aspects of the UK’s departure from the EU.
Speaking at a press conference in Windsor, outside London, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said the new deal, known as the “Windsor Framework”, would provide “smoother trade” within the UK and “protect Northern Ireland’s place”. “protects” the sovereignty of Northern Ireland.
European Commission President Ursula van der Leyen has acknowledged strained relations between the UK and the EU after Brexit. He said both parties needed new solutions to “leverage our partnership.” He pointed to UK and EU cooperation in Ukraine, saying “we need to listen very carefully to each other’s concerns”.
The deal aims to fix problems created by the Northern Ireland Protocol, an annex to the Brexit deal agreed by Boris Johnson and the EU in 2019. The protocol was developed to prevent a hard border on the island of Northern Ireland. Ireland joined the European Union, which means that goods do not need to be checked between the Republic and the province.
The two leaders outlined three key areas where the new agreement would improve the protocol.
Sunak said the deal would protect the free flow of trade between Great Britain and Northern Ireland by creating green and red lines for goods flowing through Northern Ireland. Goods at risk of entering the Republic of Ireland will be placed on a red lane before entering Northern Ireland. Products in Northern Ireland will flow freely, meaning “if food is available on supermarket shelves in Great Britain, it will be available in Northern Ireland,” Sunak said.
The Prime Minister said the UK and EU had managed to preserve “Northern Ireland’s place in the Union” through the deal by allowing the UK government to set the VAT rates applicable in Northern Ireland, as opposed to the current system of setting rates. by the European Union. He said it would allow recent policies, such as the reform to cut the price of pints in British pubs, to be applied in Northern Ireland now.
Finally, he announced a new “Stormont brake” that would allow Northern Ireland’s devolved government to pull an “emergency brake” on any new EU laws imposed on the province.
“It will establish a clear process by which the democratically elected assembly can pull an emergency ban on changes to EU products, rules that have a significant and lasting effect on everyday life,” Sunak said.
He also said that if the brakes were pulled by the Northern Ireland government, the Westminster government would be given veto power over the legislation.
Van der Leyen arrived in England on Monday for final talks with Sunak ahead of a report on the deal in the House of Commons. Von der Leyen will meet King Charles III for tea at Windsor Castle, Buckingham Palace confirmed.
Negotiations have intensified in recent weeks after months of deadlock over how to handle checks in Northern Ireland, which is part of the United Kingdom but shares a land border with the Republic of Ireland, an EU member state.
Now that a deal is in place, Sunak faces a political backlash from hard-line Eurosceptics in his Conservative Party.
Van der Leyen’s meeting with the King has proved controversial. “The monarch is happy to meet any world leader if they visit Britain and it is the government’s advice that he should do so,” the palace said in announcing the session.
A royal source said the meeting would be an opportunity for Charles to discuss topics including the war in Ukraine and climate change.
But it was criticized by some prominent union figures. “I can’t believe HM King #10 would be asking the King to be involved in finalizing such a controversial deal,” former Northern Ireland First Minister Arlene Foster wrote in a tweet. “It’s bad and it’s going to get a lot worse in NI.”
The Northern Ireland Protocol, signed by former Northern Ireland Prime Minister Johnson with Brussels, attempted to recognize the delicate situation Brexit had created in Northern Ireland.
Normally, a border between an EU member state and a non-EU country such as the UK would require infrastructure such as customs posts. But during sectarian unrest known as the Troubles, security posts along the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland became targets of paramilitary groups fighting for a united Ireland.
In theory, the Northern Ireland Protocol was intended to eliminate the need for border infrastructure. It was agreed that Northern Ireland would remain within the EU’s regulatory sphere and that goods entering Northern Ireland from Great Britain would be checked before they arrived — effectively imposing a sea border.
This angered the pro-British unionist community in Northern Ireland, who argued that they were being cut off from the rest of the UK and forced closer to a republic. Controversy over arrangements has been a stumbling block to restoring the Northern Ireland legislature, which has been suspended since 2017. Power-sharing between Unionists and Republicans was a key part of the Good Friday Agreement — the peace treaty that marked the end of the Troubles.
The conflict has also affected trade between Great Britain and Northern Ireland, with the UK not fully implementing the protocol.