Britain and EU okay Brexit pact for Northern Ireland

Published March 25, 2023
British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak delivers a statement on the Northern Ireland Protocol, at the House of Commons in London, Britain, February 27, 2023. — Reuters/File
British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak delivers a statement on the Northern Ireland Protocol, at the House of Commons in London, Britain, February 27, 2023. — Reuters/File

LONDON: The UK and European Union on Friday formally adopted a post-Brexit deal to overhaul Northern Irish trade rules, prompting Brussels’ pointman on the thorny issue to proclaim “the opening of a new chapter” in ties.

British foreign minister James Cleverly and EU Commission vice-president Maros Sefcovic signed off the “Windsor Framework” at a joint committee meeting in London, days after UK lawmakers overwhelmingly endorsed a crucial part of the new pact.

It is hoped the agreement, struck after more than a year of negotiations, can reset relations between London and the bloc, which became strained in particular over post-Brexit trade frictions in Northern Ireland.

The pact could also pave the way for power-sharing to resume in the UK province, after it collapsed last year amid opposition from pro-British unionists to the trading arrangements there.

“I see this as the opening of a new chapter,” Sefcovic said, shortly after adopting the deal in the British capital, adding that the two sides “are giving new positive momentum to the relationship”.

“I think that it will open new avenues in political and economic areas for further cooperation.”

N.Irish headaches

The new framework creates a “green” check-free lane for goods coming from the rest of the UK that are intended to stay in Northern Ireland, without heading into Ireland and the EU’s single market.

It will also limit, but not scrap, oversight of the arrangements by the EU’s European Court of Justice (ECJ). The deal also hands Northern Irish lawmakers an effective veto over new EU rules being implemented there, through a so-called “Stormont brake”.

Northern Ireland remains in the European customs union and single market for goods because of the need to keep an open border with EU member Ireland to the south as part of a 1998 peace deal.

Published in Dawn, March 25th, 2023

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