The Windsor Framework: What is in the new post-Brexit deal on Northern Ireland?


Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen have agreed a new post-Brexit deal for Northern Ireland, calling it the Windsor Framework.

lt is designed to tackle the issues impacting Northern Ireland since the UK left the EU – and the so-called Northern Ireland Protocol came into force.

But what does the new deal entail?

This is an early look at what has been announced by Mr Sunak – we will bring you more when the full framework is published.


The agreement will introduce two new routes for goods when they are travelling from Great Britain into Northern Ireland.

Products which are travelling through NI to get to the Republic of Ireland – which is in the EU – will go via a red lane, ensuring they pass all the customs checks they need to before crossing the Irish Sea.

More on Brexit

But products which are set to stay in NI – and therefore in the UK – will go via a green lane, which Mr Sunak said would see the current “burdensome customs bureaucracy scrapped”, e.g. no more documents.

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The prime minister said the new agreement on Brexit was a ‘historic’ and a ‘decisive breakthrough’ that ‘safeguards sovereignty for the people of Northern Ireland’

The PM also said it would benefit people sending parcels to friends and family within the UK or buying products online as there would not have to be any customs paperwork.

He promised food available on supermarket shelves in Great Britain would also be available in Northern Ireland.

Mr Sunak said: “This means we have removed any sense of a border in the Irish Sea.”

Taxes and medicines

Next up is something Mr Sunak says protects Northern Ireland’s place in the United Kingdom.

The legal text of the protocol has been amended to make sure the UK government’s decision on VAT and excise will also be implemented in Northern Ireland.

Under the previous Brexit agreement, those decisions were taken in Brussels as the region had to follow single market rules.

But now any changes in Westminster will come into force in Northern Ireland, with the PM using the example of alcohol duty, “meaning our reforms to cut the cost of a pint in the pub will now apply in Northern Ireland”.

File photo dated 01/12/06 of a man drinking a pint of beer, as almost a third of pub visits are now completely alcohol-free as the trend for moderation among drinkers continues to grow, according to new research.

He said British products like trees, plants, and seed potatoes will also be available again in Northern Ireland’s garden centres.

A “landmark” settlement has been agreed on medicines, meaning drugs approved for use by the UK’s medicines regulator will be automatically available in every pharmacy and hospital in Northern Ireland.

In good news for pet owners, they can now travel without documentation from a vet.

Stormont brake

Perhaps the most politically significant element of the framework is this proposal, which Mr Sunak says “safeguards sovereignty for the people of Northern Ireland”.

Unionists, such as the DUP, are against any EU laws having to be followed in Northern Ireland as members of the Assembly do not have a say over them.

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‘We knew this would not be easy’, says Ursula von der Leyen

But to avoid a hard border returning to the island of Ireland, others say some of the bloc’s laws will have to be followed going forward.

Mr Sunak told reporters some rules would remain, adding: “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”.

However, what the PM has agreed with the EU is to give members of the Northern Ireland Assembly a say on any changes to EU law by offering them “the Stormont brake”.

The Stormont parliament buildings in Northern Ireland

If 30 members of the NI Assembly across two parties vote against a change or new law, the brake is pulled, it gets stopped and the Westminster government steps in.

They will argue out the case with the EU in a joint committee and decide whether it should be adopted across the whole of the UK, or be vetoed – meaning it would not come into force anywhere across the country.

However, it is not yet clear what happens if the two sides cannot agree, with the documents published so far only saying it would be solved through a process of “independent arbitration”.

Mr Sunak said the brake “gives the institutions of the Good Friday Agreement in Northern Ireland a powerful new safeguard, based on cross-community consent”.

But the detail of how this works could be make or break for the PM to get the support of the DUP and Brexiteer members of his own party.

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