The EU and Great Britain have settled the long-standing dispute over the Brexit regulations for Northern Ireland with a new agreement. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen presented the agreement after a meeting in Windsor, west of London.
The new agreement provides for trade between Great Britain and Northern Ireland to run smoothly in the future, said Sunak. Northern Ireland is part of the United Kingdom. A border will no longer be noticeable, said the prime minister. For goods destined for Northern Ireland, there should be a "green lane", similar to the green "No Duty To Declare" exit at the airport. In addition, the Northern Irish Parliament should have a say on whether new EU regulations should apply to the province.
Sunak and von der Leyen outdid each other with praise for the cooperation and the result achieved. This is "historic", said the head of the EU Commission. Sunak spoke of a "decisive breakthrough". Both stressed that this was a "new chapter" in EU-UK relations.
How is the Northern Ireland Protestant Party DUP reacting?
It is eagerly awaited whether the Northern Ireland Protestant party DUP will accept the agreement. DUP boss Jeffrey Donaldson spoke of significant progress, but there are also "key issues that give cause for concern". In protest against the regulations, the DUP has been blocking the formation of a regional government in Northern Ireland for months. It is now under pressure to give up its political deadlock.
This and the reaction of the Brexit hardliners in his own party will probably depend on whether Sunak has the political room for maneuver to push it through. His predecessors Theresa May and Liz Truss and ex-Prime Minister Boris Johnson had not been able to put an end to the dispute. He wanted to present the agreement in the lower house that evening.
But the controls also caused difficulties in intra-British trade. Union Protestant supporters in Northern Ireland feel cut off from Britain. London therefore wanted to renegotiate the contract.
"Long-term debate can now finally be settled"
The dispute had put a strain on relations between London and Brussels, but also on relations between London and Berlin. The relief was also great in the European Parliament. Bernd Lange (SPD), chairman of the trade committee, said a restart of relations was possible. David McAllister (CDU), who chairs the Foreign Affairs Committee, expressed the hope "that the ongoing latent debate can finally be settled".
According to commentators, Sunak received concessions from Brussels that his predecessors did not get. This is attributed to the fact that Sunak is considered a pragmatist who is trusted more. In a press release, it made clear what the EU Commission expects from your concessions: Great Britain will no longer pursue a controversial legislative proposal to overturn the Northern Ireland Protocol, it said.
For von der Leyen, the evening continued with an audience with King Charles, which caused some frowns in Great Britain. The monarch always strictly stays out of daily politics. It is therefore considered unusual that he meets von der Leyen on the very day when a controversial agreement with Brussels is to be concluded. Critics accused Sunak of using the king for his purposes. A spokesman for the prime minister stressed that the decision as to whom the king would receive rested solely with the palace.