- Sunak and von der Leyen reach an agreement on the parameters of the transaction.
- Sunak praises the ‘Stormont brake.’
- The DUP Factions have stated that they will analyze the details first.
British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak struck a deal with the European Union on post-Brexit trade rules for Northern Ireland on Monday, saying it would pave the way for a new chapter in London’s relationship with the bloc.
Sunak, speaking alongside European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen at a news conference in Windsor, claimed the two sides had agreed to remove “any sense of a border” between Britain and its province, a scenario that had enraged lawmakers on both sides.
He received quick praise from business groups who praised the relaxation of trade barriers, as well as an EU vow to allow British scientists to join its enormous research program provided Sunak’s party adopts the arrangement.
Sunak has embarked on a high-risk plan only four months after becoming an office. He wants to strengthen relations with Brussels – and the US – without upsetting the Brexit-supporting portion of his party.
The pact aims to alleviate tensions generated by the Northern Ireland protocol, a complex arrangement that established trading regulations for the British-ruled territory that London agreed to before leaving the EU but now claims is unworkable.
Its success is likely to be determined by whether it can persuade the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) to abandon its boycott of Northern Ireland’s power-sharing arrangements. They were crucial to the 1998 Good Friday Agreement, which ended three decades of sectarianism and political bloodshed in Northern Ireland.
“I’m pleased to report that we have now made a decisive breakthrough,” Sunak said of his new “Windsor Framework”. “This is the beginning of a new chapter in our relationship.”
Northern Ireland has been one of the most controversial issues surrounding Britain’s departure from the European Union in 2020. A return to a hard border between the province and Ireland, which is a member of the EU, may have jeopardized the peace agreement.
But, it remains to be seen whether the new parameters will go far enough to break the political gridlock in Northern Ireland, where many unionist areas have been upset by views that the protocol reduced connections with Britain.
Sunak is sure to speak up about the fact he has won a so-called “Stormont brake”, which he said would allow Stormont – the regional assembly – to stop any “changes to EU goods rules that would have significant and lasting effects on everyday lives”. He claimed that this would give London a veto over new regulations.
The European Research Group, which includes pro-Brexit Tory legislators, will consult with attorneys to analyze the specifics before reaching a decision, which may take up to a week.
Former Brexit minister David Davis claimed Sunak had achieved a “formidable negotiation success,” albeit there has been speculation in the Commons that Boris Johnson may veto the arrangement. According to a source close to the former prime minister, he is examining and considering the suggestion.
If the contract is approved, the new adjustments will be implemented gradually over the next few years. After all, parties have had time to analyze it, a parliamentary vote will be held.
Winning would strengthen Sunak’s grip on his Conservative Party and allow him to move on from the most difficult subject on his agenda as he tries to catch up with the opposition Labour Party, which is presently well ahead in opinion polls, ahead of a national election in 2024.
If he fails, he would almost certainly face a rebellion from his party’s eurosceptic side, renewing the deep ideological differences that have at times paralyzed the government since the Brexit vote in 2016.
Sunak could have left the standoff unsolved, but officials in London and Belfast claim he was motivated to move ahead of the Good Friday Agreement’s 25th anniversary, which might include a visit from US President Joe Biden.
Biden, who frequently expresses pride in his Irish heritage, applauded the agreement on Monday, calling it an “important step” in preserving the peace established by the Good Friday Agreement.
US officials had previously cautioned that any action that jeopardized the peace treaty could jeopardize the prospects for a US-UK trade deal.
“I appreciate the efforts of the leaders and officials on all sides who worked tirelessly to find a way forward that protects Northern Ireland’s place within the UK’s internal market as well as the EU’s single market, to the benefit of all communities in Northern Ireland,” Biden said in a statement.
Sunak hopes that a favorable resolution will increase collaboration with the EU in areas other than Northern Ireland, such as financial services regulation and assisting in stemming an influx of migrants in tiny boats across the Channel.
Raoul Ruparel, a former senior assistant on Europe to former Prime Minister Theresa May, said the new terms were far superior to his expectations.
“It is worth saying the EU has moved massively,” he said on Twitter. “Credit where it’s due. They look to have listened and taken on board concerns of UK, businesses, and unionists in NI.”
Rishi Sunak ‘looking forward’ to von der Leyen meeting
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