Business & Economy

EU, UK strike new post-Brexit deal on Northern Ireland trade rules

(Update 1: Changes headline, re-ledes, adds detail throughout)

London, Feb 27 (EFE).- The European Union and the United Kingdom have struck a fresh post-Brexit deal over trade arrangements for Northern Ireland, the UK government and EU said Monday.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen traveled to the UK on Monday to finalize the controversial deal with British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak.

“I’m pleased to report that we have now made a decisive breakthrough,” Sunak told reporters at a press conference in Windsor, England.

“Together we have changed the original protocol and are today announcing the new Windsor Framework,” Sunak added.

The British prime minister said the new deal was the “beginning of a new chapter” in the UK’s relationship with the EU, adding that the agreement “delivers smooth-flowing trade within the whole UK, protects Northern Ireland’s place in our union and safeguards sovereignty for the people of Northern Ireland.”

The original Northern Ireland Protocol was agreed upon under former Prime Minister Boris Johnson and came into force in 2021.

Under the previous protocol, Northern Ireland continued to observe some EU laws to avoid a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, which remained an EU member state after Britain’s exit from Europe’s trade bloc.

Avoiding a land border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland is a complex and sensitive issue and was pivotal to the implementation of the 1998 Good Friday peace deal, which largely ended 30 years of sectarian violence.

But the protocol in place before Monday’s agreement established border controls on the trade of goods between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK. Critics of that arrangement said it left Belfast at a disadvantage and undermined its position within the UK.

Sunak said that the new Windsor Framework “fixes practical problems they (residents of Northern Ireland) face” and “preserves the balance of the Good Friday agreement.”

The British prime minister confirmed that under the new framework green and red lanes will be established for goods that enter Northern Ireland from Great Britain (England, Scotland and Wales).

While goods that are destined for the EU single market will continue to undergo normal customs processes in Northern Ireland (red lane), those that are for use in NI will no longer have to be checked (green lane).

Sunak said that new streamlined process will effectively remove any sense of a border in the Irish Sea.

Von der Leyen said the agreement reached in principle provided “long-lasting solutions that will work for everyone in Northern Ireland and protect the EU’s Single Market.”

“Most importantly, it protects the very hard-earned gains of the Good Friday (Belfast) Agreement for the people of Northern Ireland, and across the island of Ireland,” she added.

The EC chief is to meet King Charles III at Windsor Castle for tea after the press conference.

“The King is pleased to meet any world leader if they are visiting Britain and it is the Government’s advice that he should do so,” a palace statement said.

Buckingham Palace said the King and von der Leyen would be discussing a “range of topics,” including the climate crisis and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Sunak is due to address the House of Commons in Westminster at 18:30 GMT, after a cabinet meeting to go over the terms of the agreement.

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