UK and EU seal the deal on post-Brexit Windsor Framework
LONDON — The U.K. and EU made official their new plan to ease post-Brexit trade tensions in Northern Ireland — despite ongoing objections from the region’s Democratic Unionist Party.
A series of meetings in London Friday co-chaired by Maroš Šefčovic, the EU’s Brexit pointman, and James Cleverly, the U.K.’s foreign secretary, saw the formal adoption of the Windsor Framework after months of at-times-acrimonious talks.
“These arrangements address, in a definitive manner, the challenges in the operation of the Protocol on Ireland/Northern Ireland over the last two years and the everyday issues faced by people and businesses in Northern Ireland, while supporting and protecting the Good Friday or Belfast Agreement in all its parts,” a joint statement from the two men read.
The breakthrough plan, unveiled last month, aims to resolve a host of issues with the post-Brexit setup governing Northern Ireland and to convince unionists in the region to return to its power-sharing government amid a boycott.
The move comes after a key part of the deal — known as the Stormont Brake — sailed through the U.K. House of Commons this week, despite a small Conservative rebellion. The EU also formally signed up to key parts of the framework in recent days.
However, there may still be turbulence ahead for the framework.
The DUP has expressed serious misgivings about the plan and its MPs in Westminster voted against it this week. It continues to hold out on a return to power-sharing in Northern Ireland and has dismissed the Stormont Brake — intended to give Northern Ireland’s lawmakers more say over EU rules set to apply in the region — as insufficient to stop the “imposition of EU law” there.
The formal adoption of the plan came at a Friday meeting of the EU-U.K. joint committee, which was set up under the Brexit divorce deal to manage issues stemming from the U.K.’s departure. That was followed by a meeting of the EU-U.K. partnership council, which focuses on wider cooperation in areas including trade and research.
Speaking at the U.K.’s Foreign Office in London Friday, where the pair were flanked by senior officials, Šefčovic told his U.K. counterpart negotiations had been conducted “thoughtfully, professionally” and “in a spirit of friendship and cooperation.”
The agreement, he said, “protected the European Union’s single market, protected the U.K.’s internal market, but most importantly perhaps, protected the elements of the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement.”
Cleverly, reflecting the recent upturn in relations between London and Brussels, said: “Together we listened, we understood and we acted for the benefit of both our interests. And now the Windsor Framework is a result of that genuine engagement and shared vision. I agree with you, this was by no means easy.”
Shawn Pogatchnik contributed reporting.