Business Maverick

Business Maverick

UK, EU Seal New Post-Brexit Deal on Northern Ireland Trade

The UK and European Union reached a new deal on Northern Ireland’s trading arrangements aimed at ending years of often acrimonious wrangling and paving the way for warmer relations more than half a decade after Britons voted for Brexit.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said negotiations had led to a change in the legal text of the Northern Ireland Protocol, a part of the UK’s divorce deal with the EU governing trade with the region. Sunak described the deal — known as the “Windsor Framework” — as a “decisive moment,” while von der Leyen described it as  “extraordinary” and said it would ensure a “long-lasting” solution for all parties.

“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,” Sunak said on Monday in a press conference alongside von der Leyen.

It’s a triumph for the British prime minister, who has sought to dial down tensions with the EU since taking power in October. It could also pave the way for closer collaboration between the two sides on financial services, security, scientific research, and immigration.

The two sides have been negotiating over new terms to ease trade flows between Britain and Northern Ireland and put to rest the biggest hangover of Brexit three years after the formal divorce.

The prime minister will brief the House of Commons on a deal after holding a joint press conference with von der Leyen. She is meeting later Monday with King Charles III. European Commission vice president Maros Sefcovic will also be briefing member states on the terms of the agreement on Monday afternoon.

For the UK government, clinching a revised deal was an outcome that sometimes seemed impossible and threatened to spark a trade war as tensions rose in 2022. But there could still be peril ahead for the British premier, who was unable convince unionists in Northern Ireland and Brexiteers in his own ruling Conservative Party to endorse the agreement last week. He said on Monday that parties would want to consider the details of the deal, a process that will take “time and care.”

Parliamentary Vote

For the past year, the Democratic Unionist Party has blocked the formation of Northern Ireland’s power-sharing government in protest at the protocol. Without DUP support for the new deal the region’s constitutional crisis risks dragging on.

 

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Why Northern Ireland Keeps the UK and Europe at Odds

 

Rishi Sunak Travels To Belfast In Sign NI Protocol
DUP leader Jeffrey Donaldson

UK officials said in recent weeks that they believed the deal they were heading toward would meet the seven tests set by the DUP for an acceptable resolution. But an announcement was delayed for days because of DUP concerns, with leader Jeffrey Donaldson proving hard to win round.

Sunak also needs keep ardent Brexiteers in his own party onside, many of whom are close to the DUP. He leads a party riven by internal divisions after nearly 13 years in power, and any mismanagement risks a rebellion.

Though the agreement may not require a vote in the House of Commons — the process that ultimately brought down Theresa May in 2019 — Sunak said Parliament would get the chance to do so, when the time is “appropriate.”

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