Rishi Sunak explains new Northern Ireland trade deal to Parliament

UK prime minister Rishi Sunak has struck a new deal with the European Union on the movement of goods to and through Northern Ireland – and it looks like it’s a good one!

Here, he explains the details of what’s being called the Windsor Framework:

The gist is that there will be a ‘Green Lane’ for goods going into NI, and they won’t be checked, while goods going through the province and into the Republic (or the other way, and into the UK) will be subject to customs procedures.

That’s what the EU offered before, and the UK rejected, but I understand the mood music playing in Westminster at the moment is saying we shouldn’t worry about that at the moment.

It will be interesting to see what the Democratic Unionist Party in NI will have to say about it – will they be able to find a reason not to resume their seats in the Stormont Assembly?

And what will the Conservatives in the European Research Group (ERG) have to say about it?

We know what UK Labour leader Keir Starmer said about it. Here he is:

He said he wouldn’t snipe – but he did!

One wonders how long the apparent detente between the two largest political parties will hold.

The BBC has published a checklist of the changes and new measures in the Windsor Framework, which I reproduce below. We’ll all be able to use it to check if anything goes wrong:

Green lane/red lane

  • Goods from Britain destined for Northern Ireland will travel through a new “green lane”, with a separate “red lane” for goods at risk of moving onto the EU
  • Products coming into Northern Ireland through the green lane would see checks and paperwork scrapped
  • Red lane goods destined for the EU still be subject to normal checks
  • Mr Sunak said this would mean food available on the supermarket shelves in Great Britain will be available on supermarket shelves in Northern Ireland.
  • New data-sharing arrangements would be used to oversee the new system
  • Where smuggling is suspected, some custom checks may still be carried out on green lane goods
  • Business moving goods from Northern Ireland to Great Britain would not be required to complete export declarations
  • Bans on certain products – like chilled sausages – entering Northern Ireland from Britain would be scrapped

Pets, parcels and medicines

  • No new requirements on moving pets from Northern Ireland to Britain
  • Pet owners visiting Northern Ireland from Britain (but not travelling on to Ireland) only have to confirm their pet is microchipped and will not move into the EU
  • Under old rules, pet owners had to have vet-issued health certificate and proof of up-to-date rabies vaccination, while dogs needed tapeworm treatment before every visit
  • Medicines for use in Northern Ireland would be approved by UK regulator, with the European Medicines Agency not having any role
  • Parcels will not be subject to full custom declarations

VAT and alcohol duty

  • Under the Northern Ireland Protocol, EU VAT rules could be applied in Northern Ireland
  • Under the new deal, Mr Sunak says the UK can make “critical VAT” changes which include Northern Ireland
  • For example if the government raises or cuts alcohol duty this will apply to pubs in Northern Ireland as well as the rest of the UK, he said

Stormont brake

  • Under the protocol, some EU law applies in Northern Ireland, but politicians had no formal way to influence the rules
  • New agreement introduces a “Stormont brake” which allows the Northern Ireland Assembly to raise an objection to a new rule
  • The process would be triggered if 30 MLAs (representatives in the Stormont Assembly) from two or more parties sign a petition
  • 14 day consultation period would follow, after which, if 30 MLAs still support it, there would be a vote in the assembly
  • To pass, it would need support from both unionists and nationalist representatives
  • The brake cannot be used for “trivial reasons” but reserved for “significantly different” rules
  • Once the UK tells the EU the brake has been triggered, the rule cannot be implemented
  • It can only be applied if the UK and EU agree
  • This new process is not subject to oversight by the European Court of Justice oversight
  • The document states that: “Any dispute on this issue would be resolved through subsequent independent arbitration according to international, not EU, law.”
  • The EU has its own safeguard – if Northern Ireland starts to diverge significantly from the bloc’s rules, the EU has its own power to take “appropriate remedial measures”

Northern Ireland Bill scrapped

  • Government has confirmed it is ditching the Northern Ireland Protocol Bill
  • The controversial legislation, introduced under ex-PM Boris Johnson, would have given the UK the power to scrap the old protocol deal
  • Legal opinion published by the government says there is now “no legal justification” for going ahead with it

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