Protocol deal signed
Protocol deal signed


EU president Ursula Von Der Leyen and British prime minister Rishi Sunak have signed a long-awaited deal over post-Brexit trading arrangements for the north of Ireland.

Mr Sunak and Ms von der Leyen finalised the agreement to ease alleged trading issues created by the Irish Protocol of Brexit. A summit to finalise the deal was held at Windsor Castle in England on Monday.

Speaking at a press conference at Windsor, Sunak said today’s agreement marks a “decisive breakthrough” and a “new chapter” in London’s relationship with the EU.

He paid tribute to Von der Leyen and her “vision” that allowed a “new way forward”.

The deal, he says, will preserve the “delicate balance” in the 1998 Good Friday Agreement and protects the “aspirations and identity” of those living in the north of Ireland.

It will “end the uncertainty” for people in the North, he said, and deliver smooth-flowing trade “within the whole of the UK”. He said it protects the union of the north of Ireland to Britain and “safeguards sovereignty” (sic) for those living under British rule.

The European Commission president is due to have tea with England's King Charles at Windsor Castle later. The meeting will be seen as a sign of reconciliation following a damaging three-year stand-off over Britain's failure to abide by the treaties it negotiated in 2020.

Questions remain about the approval of the Democratic Unionist Party and the possible return of powersharing in the Six County Assembly at Stormont. DUP leader Jeffrey Donaldson said his party would take some time to examine the details of the deal before declaring its position. Sinn Fé and the other Stormont parties have also yet to comment on the outcome.

The position of extreme backbench Tory Brexit supporters remains unknown. However, arch-Brexiteer Steve Baker, reportedly on 'resignation watch' over being excluded from the talks, has strongly backed the deal. He said it was a “really fantastic” outcome.

Any vote at Westminster should have the support of the British Labour Party and, if called, will likely pass comfortably.

Labour leader Keir Starmer said the deal involved practical steps “that could have been taken 18 months, two years ago, but we’ve been stuck in an impasse”.

“The question will be whether the prime minister has got the strength to sell it to his backbenchers or not," he said.

“Many people will be frustrated that this is the loop we’ve been stuck in for a very, very long time and it’s not something you would have with a Labour government because we don’t have those divisions in our party on this issue.”

The document encoding the changes runs to over 100 pages. It involves the creation of a 'green channel' and 'red channel' to obviate the need for trade, health and safety checks at ports. These had infuriated unionists who denounced them as amounting to an 'Irish Sea border'.

The role of EU law in the implementation of the Protocol is also understood to have been all but eliminated in a significant concession to another key unionist demand.

Businesses in the north of Ireland will retain access to the EU single market and there will be no attempt to check goods crossing Britain's line of partition. Another significant change will allow the free movement of pets throughout the two islands, according to reports.

The 26 County Tánaiste Micheál Martin said there has been “a genuine attempt” to resolve issues with the protocol raised by unionists and that the deal represents a chance to reset British-Irish relations.

“All of those issues that have been raised, I think people will find a genuine attempt at a response to those issues.

“I respect that this is a matter that the DUP would have to consider within its party.

“I would say that, genuinely, the European Union has listened to the concerns that have been articulated consistently by the DUP, the UUP and others in Northern Ireland in respect of the operation of the protocol.”

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