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Politics

Windsor Framework 

Windsor Framework

About Windsor Framework

  • The UK government under PM Rishi Sunak reached a landmark deal with the European Union (EU) on post-Brexit trade rules that will govern Northern Ireland.
  • This deal will replace the Northern Ireland Protocol.

The Northern Ireland Protocol

Background

  • After the UK left the European Union, Northern Ireland remained its only constituent that shared a 310 mile land border with an EU-member, the Republic of Ireland.
The-Northern-Ireland-Protocol
  • Since the EU and the UK have different product standards, border checks would be necessary before goods could move from Northern Ireland to Ireland.
  • However, the two Irelands have had a long history of conflict. They secured peace only in 1998 under the Belfast Agreement, also called the Good Friday agreement.
    • An open border between the two was a key component of Good Friday agreement.
  • Keeping this in mind, Northern Ireland Protocol was negotiated in 2020 between U.K. & E.U.

About The Protocol

  • It is a trading agreement that was negotiated in 2020 between the U.K. and the E.U.
  • Under this agreement both the U.K. and E.U. agreed that the inspection of goods would be conducted between Great Britain and Northern Ireland.
    • This agreement effectively created a de facto border in the Irish Sea between Northern Ireland and the rest of U.K.
  • Northern Ireland continued to follow many of the EU’s rules, meaning that lorries can continue to drive across the border without having to be inspected.
  • The protocol was signed as part of the Brexit withdrawal agreement, which is now ratified under international law.

Why Has The Protocol Been A Source Of Tension?

  • Political Division
    • The protocol has led to political division in Northern Ireland and created rifts within the U.K.’s Conservative Party over what it means for Brexit.
    • Any kind of border in the Irish Sea irked those who want a united U.K.
  • Intra-UK Trade Affected (Trade between Great Britain and Northern Island)
    • The checks made trade between Great Britain and Northern Ireland cumbersome, with food products, especially, losing out on shelf life while they waited for clearance.
    • Some taxation and spending policies of the UK government could not be implemented in Northern Ireland because of EU rules.
    • The sale of medicines, too, was caught between different British and EU rules.

Key Highlights Of The Windsor Framework

Key Highlights Of The Windsor Framework
Key Highlights Of The Windsor Framework
  • The framework has two crucial aspects –
    • the introduction of a green lane and red lane system for goods that will stay in Northern Ireland and those that will go to the EU respectively;
    • the ‘Stormont Brake’, which allows Northern Ireland lawmakers and London to veto any EU regulation they believe affects the region adversely.
  • The two lanes
    • British goods meant for Northern Ireland will use the Green lane at the ports, and will be allowed to pass with minimal paperwork and checks.
      • This is significant for meat products, such as sausages, travelling between the two parts of the UK, as the EU has stricter rules about animal products.
      • Also, people in Northern Ireland can order goods online from Britain easily now.
      • The same medicines, in the same packs, with the same labels, will be available across the UK, without the need for barcode scanning requirements under the old Protocol.
  • Goods destined for Ireland or the rest of the EU will have to take the Red lane, with the attendant customs and other checks.
  • Stormont Brake
    • The new Stormont Brake means the democratically elected Northern Ireland Assembly can oppose new EU goods rules that would have significant and lasting effects on everyday lives in Northern Ireland.
    • For this, they will need the support of 30 members from at least two parties.
    • The British government can then veto the law.

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