PM promises ‘beginning of a new chapter’ as he unveils ‘Windsor Framework’ deal on Brexit


Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has outlined details of the “new Windsor framework” agreed with the European Union to overcome trade barriers in Northern Ireland following Brexit.

The prime minister said the agreement was a “historic” and a “decisive breakthrough” that “delivers smooth-flowing trade within the whole of the United Kingdom, protects Northern Ireland’s place in our union and safeguards sovereignty for the people of Northern Ireland”.

The new deal includes:

  • Green and red lane trade routes – where goods staying in the UK will use a green lane to avoid customs bureaucracy, while goods moving to the EU will use a red lane
  • UK VAT and excise changes will apply in Northern Ireland – British products such as food and drink, trees, plants and seed potatoes will be available in NI and pet travel requirements have been removed
  • A “landmark” settlement on medicines so drugs approved for use by the UK’s medicines regulator will be automatically available in every pharmacy and hospital in Northern Ireland
  • A new “Stormont brake” – To safeguard sovereignty in Northern Ireland. Stormont can stop changes in EU goods laws from applying in Northern Ireland. If the brake is pulled, the UK government will have a veto.

Follow live updates on new post-Brexit deal

For weeks, there has been speculation over whether a new deal could be thrashed out three years after Brexit took place as Mr Sunak entered talks with the EU.

But terms of the deal were revealed at a news conference following final talks between Mr Sunak and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen in Windsor this lunchtime.

Mr Sunak said the agreement “marks a turning point for the people of Northern Ireland” that “fixes the practical problems they face” yet “preserves the balance of the Belfast Good Friday Agreement”.

More on Brexit

On the changes to customs and VAT rules, Mr Sunak said: “This means we have removed any sense of a border in the Irish Sea.”

Ms von der Leyen said the 27-page, 13,031-word framework “will allow us to begin a new chapter” and it “provides for long-lasting solutions that both of us are confident will work for all people and businesses in Northern Ireland”.

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‘We knew deal would not be easy’

The two leaders were glowing in their respect for each other, with Ms von der Leyen calling the PM “dear Rishi” a few times and said they were “honest with each other about the difficulties in our bilateral relationship and it was vital to put that on the right footing”.

Mr Sunak said: “The United Kingdom and European Union may have had our differences in the past, but we are allies, trading partners and friends.

“Something that we’ve seen clearly the past year as we joined with others to support Ukraine. This Is the beginning of a new chapter in our relationship.”

Next hurdle: Tory Brexiteers and DUP

Mr Sunak put the deal – the biggest move of his premiership – to his cabinet this afternoon during a virtual meeting but a vote by MPs in the Commons is not expected until possibly next week.

Following speculation there may not be a vote on the deal by MPs, Mr Sunak confirmed parliament will have a vote “at the appropriate time”.

On whether Tory Brexiteers and Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) may try to block the deal, Mr Sunak said it is “not about politicians” and is about “what’s best” for the people of Northern Ireland.

He will meet the 1922 Committee of backbench Tory MPs on Monday evening to try to persuade them to back the deal.

Asked if they were happy with the deal on leaving Number 10 just after the virtual cabinet meeting, Home Secretary Suella Braverman smiled and Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab gave a thumbs up.

DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson said: “We’ll take our time to consider the detail and measure a deal against our seven tests.”

Read more:
What is the Northern Ireland Protocol?
What are the DUP’s seven tests?

Why was a new deal needed?

The deal follows frustrations around the Northern Ireland Protocol, which aimed to prevent creating a hard border on the island of Ireland – but effectively placed a border in the Irish Sea.

This was something former prime minister Boris Johnson promised would not happen when he signed off on the original deal with the EU.

Some businesses have ceased trading due to the extra cost and bureaucracy created by goods coming into Northern Ireland from the rest of the UK having to be checked over concerns they could end up going into the EU over the border in Ireland.

Mr Johnson introduced the Northern Ireland Protocol Bill to override that part of the Brexit deal but this caused tension with the EU, who said the move risked breaching an international treaty. The bill’s passage through parliament was paused by Mr Sunak.

Ms von der Leyen headed off to meet King Charles for tea at Windsor Castle after the PM and she announced the deal.

Ireland’s deputy leader and foreign affairs minister Michael Martin welcomed the deal, saying he believes unionists will see it is a “genuine response” to their concerns.

Labour’s shadow foreign secretary David Lammy said an agreement was “long overdue” and was “beyond party politics” as he confirmed Labour will support the deal.

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PM arrives for talks with Ursula von der Leyen

Later today, Mr Sunak will make a statement on the deal to MPs in the House of Commons but a vote is not expected in the coming days.

Despite the details of the deal being closely guarded, Mr Sunak has faced opposition from Tory Brexiteers and the DUP, who has refused to form a government at Stormont for the past year over the protocol.

The PM will still need the DUP’s support to see the deal through but their support would be key to convincing those Conservatives to also back it.

Leading Brexit supporter MP Steve Baker, the Northern Ireland Office minister who had been on resignation watch, gave Mr Sunak his support earlier on Monday.

Earlier in the day, Brexiteer Jacob Rees-Mogg warned Mr Sunak of a possible Tory revolt if the DUP does not support the deal.

Labour has repeatedly said they will support a deal.

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