UK: Windsor Framework agreed by UK & EU for Northern Ireland broadly welcomed

Hamed Chapman

London, (The Muslim News): British Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak, flew to Belfast Tuesday after winning widespread support for a new Windsor Framework with the European Union Monday aimed to end the long drawn-out dispute over the controversial Northern Ireland Protocol proposed and agreed by his predecessor Boris Johnson to accommodate a hard Brexit deal.

At a joint press conference with the European Commission President, Ursula von der Leyen, in Windsor, on Monday, the agreement was hailed by Sunak as a “new chapter” in the UK’s recent fractious relationship with the EU.

“We have now made a decisive breakthrough. Together, we have changed the original protocol, and are today announcing the new Windsor Framework,” he said before winning widespread support in Parliament.

“The Windsor Framework delivers free flowing trade within the whole United Kingdom. It protects Northern Ireland’s place in our Union. And it safeguards sovereignty for the people of Northern Ireland,” the Prime Minister told MPs.

Opposition Labour Leader, Sir Keir Starmer, said that the protocol will “never be perfect” but that his party would support it and when it was put forward for a vote Labour will “not seek to play political games” and “will vote for it.”

The widespread support, including from the Scottish Nationalist Party and Liberal Democrats as well as an overwhelming majority of Conservatives means that Sunak will easily win a vote but he said he will delay it to give the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) “time for people to digest” the text.

The UK government had been hoping to the agreement will lead to a restoration of the devolved Northern Ireland Assembly due to it being boycotted by the DUP after last year’s elections to Stormont were won for the first time by Sinn Fein.

DUP Leader, Sir Jeffrey Donaldson, said that “in broad terms, it was clear that significant progress had been secured across a number of areas, but we also recognise that there remain key issues of concern.”

Sunak still faces possible discord from the hardline Brexiter wing of his party amid concerns over the continued role of EU law in Northern Ireland. Former Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, who threatened to unilaterally revoke the protocol he had proposed by enacting legislation, was notably absent during Monday’s debate in Parliament.

But speaking from Belfast in an interview with the BBC, Sunak suggested that the new deal will go ahead regardless of whether or not DUP back it, saying the framework was about what is best for the people of Northern Ireland and that was what he will be was talking about while he was there.

In the US, President Joe Biden, welcomed the protocol deal in a statement, saying the Windsor Framework is “an essential step to ensuring that the hard-earned peace and progress of the Belfast/Good Friday agreement is preserved and strengthened.”

[Photo: Prime Minister Rishi Sunak holds a joint press conference with President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen in Windsor Guildhall on 27 February 2023. Picture by Simon Walker / No 10 Downing Street]

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