British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen Monday clinched in principle a deal on Northern Ireland, one of the biggest wounds Brexit had left open, it was reported.
Sunak underlined that the new Windsor accord is expected to preserve the delicate balance of the Good Friday peace agreement with the IRA while protecting the aspirations and identity of all people in Northern Ireland.
The new protocol is to reduce customs controls within the UK by facilitating trade without establishing a hard border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland, which could jeopardize the peace accords, it was explained.
The Northern Ireland conflict (1968-1998) pitted the so-called Unionists (of the Protestant religion, the majority in the region), in favor of preserving ties with the United Kingdom, against the Republicans (mostly Catholics, a demographic the minority who favored independence or the integration of the province into the Republic of Ireland). The Good Friday peace agreement, signed in Belfast in 1998, put an end to the violence but required no physical borders be erected on the island.
Before Brexit, trade between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland took place with few restrictions as both territories belonged to the European common market and followed the same rules. But that has changed and while Northern Ireland should have stayed outside of the European Union, in practical terms it seemed as if it had remained inside due to its intangible borders with the independent Republic to the south. Hence, it was decided that the customs office should be moved to the sea that separates the island of Ireland from the island of Great Britain. This agreement, reached during Boris Johnson's government, was called the Northern Ireland Protocol, which has generated political instability and even some outbreaks of violence, including the Feb. 22 shooting of Police Inspector John Caldwell by the self-appointed New IRA.
With Caldwell still hospitalized, Sunak and Von der Leyen remembered the officer at the beginning of their joint press conference. The deal reached Monday will determine how border checks are handled in Northern Ireland. According to The Guardian, Sunak said that the UK and the EU have had their differences, but they were friends who were at the beginning of a “new chapter” in their relationship.
“I’m pleased to report that we have now made a decisive breakthrough. Together we have changed the original protocol and are today announcing the new Windsor framework,” Sunak was quoted as saying. “Today’s agreement delivers smooth-flowing trade within the whole United Kingdom, protects Northern Ireland’s place in our union, and safeguards sovereignty for the people of Northern Ireland,” he added. Sunak also said he expects Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) and other parties to “take time” to evaluate the protocol deal.
Von der Leyen called the result of the negotiations “extraordinary,” noting that the agreement would ensure that all food and medicines available in Britain are accessible in Northern Ireland too.
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Forget the brochure and the spin, here is what the EU says — and it’s a different storyFeb 28th, 2023 - 08:14 pm 0
Yesterday the PM and Ursula von der Leyen unveiled the answer to the NI problem, what was not forthcoming was much detail, and I doubt very much you will see any from the British press or media and even Slick Rishi
To find the detail you have to scour the EU Commission’s own words, (numerous) documents which came out of Brussels yesterday afternoon and evening. The most eye-catching sections I present are below.
And they show what a stitch-up it all is I urge you to read all of it even though it's very long.
What happened in Windsor and Westminster yesterday was a masterful example of political spin — exactly as was predicted. This was circus entertainment, carried wall-to-wall on all TV news channels.
A brochure was then published entitled “The Windsor Framework”, (funny how this was ready within minutes of the announcement that final negotiations between Rishi Sunak and Ursula von der Leyen had concluded), and the circus had started. It takes weeks to put together a brochure, it does not happen in hours or days, Slick Rishi or Sick Rishi depending on how you see him had pulled a fast one and has been working hand in hand with the EU for months
Please note: What was produced yesterday has no legal authority. It is merely a “political agreement in principle”. (The EU’s own words.)
The facts bear little resemblance to what the public was told yesterday.
Here is the reality, not the spin — all from the EU Commission itself
So let's get down to what you have not been told. And remember this is from the EUs own lips.
“Has the role of the Court of Justice of the European Union changed?”
“There is no change to the role of the Court of Justice of the European Union. The Court of Justice remains the sole and ultimate arbiter of EU law.”
EU Commission document, published early evening, Mon 27 Feb 2023
“A political agreement in principle between the European Commissio
Well, they never were going to back down on the role of the ECJ although they did on just about everything else, which could have been done two years ago.Mar 02nd, 2023 - 05:10 pm 0
But then there was no legislation going through Parliament to dis-apply the protocol at that time.
So long as NI remains in the EU single market the ECJ is a fact of life for them to some or other extent, although now they can block any new laws from applying to them.
Bearing in mind that this new agreement, like the old NI Protocol, is only a temporary arrangement that applies until Dec 2024. Whereupon the NI assembly can decide whether to continue with it or not, if not triggering a renegotiation period.
Where many parts of the Windsor Framework won’t be fully applied until 1st July 2025 and consequently may end up never being applied.
I suspect that the economic benefits for NI of free access to both the UK and EU markets, will mean that whilst there may have to be a re-negotiation, they will want continued free access to both, if politically possible.
Although they have considerably reduced the role of the ECJ:
‘The agreement delivers a form of dual regulation that will work for business and consumers in Northern Ireland…As a result over 1,700 pages of EU law - with accompanying European Court of Justice (ECJ) jurisdiction – are disapplied’.