The Northern Ireland Protocol is being replaced by the Windsor Framework, UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen announced today, Monday, February 27.
The joint announcement comes after days of speculation that a breakthrough in Brexit’s Northern Ireland Protocol was imminent.
“I’m pleased to report that we have now made a decisive breakthrough,” Sunak said during Monday’s press conference.
“Together, we have changed the original Protocol and are today announcing the new Windsor Framework.
“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.”
Acknowledging that the “negotiations have not always been easy,” the Prime Minister paid tribute to von der Leyen as well as the UK’s Foreign Secretary and Northern Ireland Secretary.
“The United Kingdom and the European Union may have had our differences in the past, but we are allies, trading partners, and friends,” Sunak remarked, adding that Monday’s breakthrough is “the beginning of a new chapter in our relationship.”
He continued: “For a quarter of a century the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement has endured because at its heart is respect for the aspirations and identities of all communities.
“Today’s agreement is about preserving that delicate balance and charting a new way forward for the people of Northern Ireland.
“I am standing here today because I believe that we have found ways to end the uncertainty and challenge for the people of Northern Ireland.
“We have taken three big steps forward.
“First, today’s agreement delivers the smooth flow of trade within the United Kingdom.
“Goods destined for Northern Ireland will travel through a new Green Lane, with a separate Red Lane for goods at risk of moving onto the EU.
“In the Green Lane, burdensome customs bureaucracy will be scrapped.
“It means food retailers like supermarkets, restaurants and wholesalers will no longer need hundreds of certificates for every lorry.
“And we will end the situation where food made to UK rules could not be sent to and sold in Northern Ireland.
“This means that if food is available on the supermarket shelves in Great Britain then it will be available on supermarket shelves in Northern Ireland.
“And unlike the Protocol, today’s agreement means people sending parcels to friends and family or doing their shopping online, will have to complete no customs paperwork.
“This means we have removed any sense of a border in the Irish Sea.
“Second, we have protected Northern Ireland’s place in the Union.
“We’ve amended the legal text of the Protocol to ensure we can make critical VAT and excise changes for the whole of the UK…for example on alcohol duty, meaning our reforms to cut the cost of a pint in the pub will now apply in Northern Ireland.
“The same quintessentially British products like trees, plants, and seed potatoes – will again be available in Northern Ireland’s garden centres.
“Onerous requirements on pet travel have been removed.
“And today’s agreement also delivers a landmark settlement on medicines.
“From now on, drugs approved for use by the UK’s medicines regulator…will be automatically available in every pharmacy and hospital in Northern Ireland.
“Third, today’s agreement safeguards sovereignty for the people of Northern Ireland.
“The only EU law that applies in Northern Ireland under the Framework is the minimum necessary to avoid a hard border with Ireland and allow Northern Irish businesses to continue accessing the EU market.
“But I know that many people in Northern Ireland are also worried about being subject to changes to EU goods laws.
“To address that, today’s agreement introduces a new Stormont Brake.
“Many had called for Stormont to have a say over these laws.
“But the Stormont Brake goes further and means that Stormont can in fact stop them from applying in Northern Ireland.
“This will establish a clear process through which the democratically elected Assembly can pull an emergency brake for changes to EU goods rules that would have significant, and lasting effects on everyday lives. If the brake is pulled, the UK government will have a veto.
“This gives the institutions of the Good Friday Agreement in Northern Ireland a powerful new safeguard, based on cross community consent.
We’re introducing a new Stormont Brake.
The elected Assembly can pull the brake for changes to EU goods rules that would have significant and lasting effects on everyday lives.
When pulled, the UK government will have a veto.
This gives Northern Ireland a powerful safeguard. pic.twitter.com/HQucBDCVHv
— Rishi Sunak (@RishiSunak) February 27, 2023
“I believe the Windsor Framework marks a turning point for the people of Northern Ireland.
“It fixes the practical problems they face.
“It preserves the balance of the Belfast Good Friday Agreement.
“Of course, parties will want to consider the agreement in detail, a process that will need time and care.
“Today’s agreement is written in the language of laws and treaties.
“But really, it’s about much more than that.
“It’s about stability in Northern Ireland.
“It’s about real people and real businesses.
“It’s about showing that our Union, that has lasted for centuries, can and will endure.
“And it’s about breaking down the barriers between us.
“Setting aside the arguments that for too long, have divided us.
“And remembering the fellow feeling that defines us:
“This family of nations – this United Kingdom.”
Speaking after Sunak, von der Leyen said the new breakthrough delivers on the commitment to “finding a practical solution for people and for all communities in Northern Ireland.”
She continued: “This new Framework will allow us to begin a new chapter. It provides for long-lasting solutions that both of us are confident will work for all people and businesses in Northern Ireland. Solutions that respond directly to the concerns they have raised.”
President von der Leyen said the new arrangements “are delivering a comprehensive package so that we can address in a definitive way the issues faced in everyday lives.”
She continued: “For this to work, we have agreed on safeguards like IT access, labels, and enforcement procedures that will protect the integrity of the European Union’s Single Market.
“The new Windsor Framework respects and protects our respective markets and our respective legitimate interests.
“And most importantly, it protects the very hard-earned peace gains of the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement for the people of Northern Ireland and across the island of Ireland. Violence has no place in our society.”
She added: “This year will mark the 25th anniversary of the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement. An important milestone of the historic peace process. The new Windsor Framework is here to benefit people in Northern Ireland and support all communities celebrating peace on the island of Ireland. This is why I believe we can now open a new chapter in our partnership.
“A stronger EU-UK relationship standing as close partners shoulder to shoulder now and in the future.”