(The Guardian) Rishi Sunak has sealed a deal with the EU to end the dispute over the post-Brexit Northern Ireland protocol.
At a joint press conference with the European Commission president, Ursula von der Leyen, in Windsor, the prime minister said: “We have now made a decisive breakthrough. Together, we have changed the original protocol, and are today announcing the new Windsor framework,” he said.
He said the deal would help restore the previously strained relationship with the EU and go much further than previously thought to fix the “democratic deficit” by giving Stormont ministers a direct say in EU laws applying to Northern Ireland. “This is the beginning of a new chapter in a relationship,” he said.
He said the deal “fixes the problems” consumers face and helps guarantee the future of peace and stability.
The UK and the EU would deliver this through “three major steps” removing customs paperwork for consumers, guaranteeing medical supplies in the long term and a new “Stormont brake” allowing assembly ministers a say on EU laws, allowing them to “stop them applying” in Northern Ireland.
The EU is understood to have made further compromises to deliver a deal that Von der Leyen believes will satisfy all communities, including the Democratic Unionist party (DUP), in a “new chapter” for all.
“Above all, we had to listen to the concerns of the people of Northern Ireland,” she said.
The agreement is the culmination of four months of intense negotiations led on the UK side by Sunak along with James Cleverly, the foreign secretary, and the Northern Ireland secretary, Chris Heaton-Harris.
But Sunak will still be concerned about possible resistance from the hardline pro-Brexit camp in the European Research Group and the DUP, who want the protocol scrapped altogether.
At the heart of the revised pact are three main issues: physical controls and checks on trade to Northern Ireland from the rest of the UK, the role of the European court of justice and the application of EU law and the place of Northern Ireland in the UK’s internal market.
It is understood that the majority of controls and checks will disappear on goods destined to remain in Northern Ireland and the role of the ECJ as the ultimate arbiter of disputes will be removed.