Brexit: London and the EU reach an agreement on Northern Ireland

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Brexit: London and the EU reach an agreement on Northern Ireland

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen presented the agreement at a joint press conference in Windsor.

The British government and the #x27;European Union reached a compromise on post-Brexit arrangements in Northern Ireland on Monday, hoping to open “a new chapter” after months of tumultuous relations and political gridlock in the British province.

As London and Brussels seemed on the brink of a trade war recently over the crisis, British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen presented the deal at a conference common press office in Windsor, west London.

It must allow both to offer strong safeguards to protect the integrity of the market unique European, underlined Ms von der Leyen.

And most importantly, it protects the hard-won peace of the 1998 Good Friday Agreement, which ended the conflict between mostly Protestant Unionists and mostly Catholic Republicans and whose the 25th anniversary will be celebrated in April, she insisted.

Signed in 2020, the Northern Ireland Protocol, brokered by former Prime Minister Boris Johnson, regulates the movement of goods between the rest of the UK and Northern Ireland, which has the only land border with the European Union.

This protocol wanted to avoid a land border between Ireland and Northern Ireland which would risk undermining peace while protecting the single European market.

However, it posed practical problems, in particular by imposing customs controls on products arriving in Northern Ireland from Great Britain.

The protocol thus generated tensions between the European Union and London but also became an internal problem for Rishi Sunak, struggling with opposition from the right wing of his majority and that of the Unionists. of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), opposed to any questioning of the place of Northern Ireland within the United Kingdom.

The latter refuse any application < em>de facto European law in the British province and have blocked the functioning of the local executive for a year.

The Windsor framework presented on Monday removes the feeling of any border in the Irish Sea, Rishi Sunak argued in presenting the compromise.

Only goods which present a risk of ending up in the Republic of Ireland, and therefore on the European single market, will be subject to checks.

To address the concerns of Unionists, who want a say in the application of EU rules in Northern Ireland, the local Parliament will have an emergency brake. If acted upon, the UK government will have a veto, Rishi Sunak stressed, hailing a powerful safeguard mechanism.

Now it remains to be seen whether the compromise reached on Monday will convince the Unionists. The DUP will take the time to study the details and assess the deal, DUP leader Jeffrey Donaldson tweeted.

To appease the Unionists, London threatened last spring to unilaterally roll back the protocol, which angered Dublin and Brussels, which then raised the specter of a trade war.

We need things to pick up. We need to fix this, Vincent Ward, a 53-year-old Northern Irishman from Newry, a border town with Ireland, told AFP on Monday.

“The way it's going now, it's ruined people's lives and caused a lot of trouble.

—Newry resident Joe O'Hanlan

In London, Rishi Sunak is preparing for delicate explanations Monday evening in front of the deputies, some of whom have already expressed their dissatisfaction. He must avoid a revolt which would affect his authority after four months in power, but after maintaining the vagueness, he confirmed that the new agreement will be put to a vote at the appropriate time.

The King of England Charles III received the President of the Union European Ursula von der Leyen.

Ms von der Leyen also met with Charles III, a visit criticized by some who lament that the king finds himself embroiled in such contentious political discussions.

The king is happy to meet n&# x27;any foreign leader visiting the UK, Buckingham Palace reacted in a statement.

The agreement will improve prosperity and guarantee peace, have saluted the United States on Monday.

I know the people and businesses of Northern Ireland will take full advantage of the economic opportunities presented by this stability, the US President said Joe Biden in a statement.

The agreement is an important decision, according to French President Emmanuel Macron.

I welcome this important decision, which will preserve the Good Friday Agreement and protect our European internal market, he said on Twitter.

The agreement was also applauded in Berlin and Dublin as well as in British business circles.

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