EU, UK strike deal over Northern Ireland trade rules in Brexit breakthrough

London: Britain and the European Union have struck a deal aimed at resolving the Brexit hangover created around trading rules for Northern Ireland.

Northern Ireland is part of the UK but, as part of the Good Friday Agreement, there should not be a hard border between the country and the Republic of Ireland, which is part of the EU.

Britain’s Prime Minister Rishi Sunak announces the historic deal.Credit:AP

The question of the best way to resolve trading arrangements and satisfy the various political parties in Belfast has been a key sticking point of the bitter Brexit fallout. The issue was catered for by the Northern Ireland Protocol, which was struck by former prime Minister and Vote Leave proponent Boris Johnson.

Under the so-called Windsor Framework, the UK secured green and red lanes for goods, allowing products like plants, medicines and groceries destined only for Northern Ireland to travel across the border with no certification or customs forms required.

“Goods 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. In the Green Lane, burdensome customs bureaucracy will be scrapped,” UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said.

Goods at risk of export to Ireland and the wider EU will go through the red lane. People in Great Britain, sending gifts to their relatives and friends in Northern Ireland will no longer have to fill out customs forms.

British PM Rishi Sunak and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen announce the deal.Credit:Bloomberg

And to address the issue of the European Court of Justice having jurisdiction over Northern Ireland, a part of the UK and a totemic issue for Brexiteers, the Northern Ireland Assembly will be given a new power or brake allowing it to stop any EU rule changes from applying in Northern Ireland if it could cause significant harm. The UK would have a veto.

Announcing the changes standing alongside each other at Windsor, Berkshire, Sunak and EU boss Ursula von der Leyen said it was a significant breakthrough and a “new chapter” in their relationship.

“We have removed any sense of a border in the Irish Sea … goods will flow freely and smoothly across the UK internal market,” Sunak said.

“Today marks a turning point … it puts people in charge of their destiny.”

“It’s historic, what we have agreed today and what we have achieved,” von der Leyen said.

Parliament will vote on the agreement, setting up a showdown with Sunak’s internal critics and the Democratic Unionist Party.

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