Windsor Framework “needs to work” for all businesses in Northern Ireland
There has been a cautious welcome for the breakthrough announced in relation to the NI Protocol.
At a press conference on Monday 27th February, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen outlined details of the new agreement – entitled the Windsor Framework.
There are three key developments within the framework, with the Prime Minister saying a “decisive breakthrough” had been made.
Notably, there has been the removal of “any sense of a border in the Irish Sea” – with a ‘green lane’ allowing for the smoother flow of goods from Great Britain into Northern Ireland.
Food retailers among other businesses will “no longer need hundreds of certificates for every lorry” Mr Sunak said and will mean that foods available on the shelves of supermarkets in Great Britain will also be available on supermarket shelves in Northern Ireland.
There will also be enhanced availability of medicines in Northern Ireland, with a “landmark settlement” meaning that drugs approved by the UK regulator will “automatically be available in every pharmacy and hospital in Northern Ireland”.
‘REAL PEOPLE AND REAL BUSINESSES’
The Windsor Framework will “safeguard sovereignty for Northern Ireland” he added.
Mr Sunak said a new ‘Stormont brake’ would enable the Northern Ireland Assembly to stop EU goods laws applying here, with Ms von der Leyen stressing this was an “emergency mechanism”. If the brake is pulled, he added, this gives the UK Government a veto.
“It’s about real people and real businesses,” Mr Sunak said at the press conference, adding that it was about “showing that our union can and will endure”.
Meanwhile, Ms von der Leyen said it was important to “deliver on an important commitment to each other”.
“We had to listen to the concerns of the people of Northern Ireland, but we knew that we could do it because we were both committed to finding a protocol solution for all communities in Northern Ireland,” she said.
“The Windsor Framework will allow us to begin a new chapter,” she added.
The Prime Minister said the new agreement marked a “turning point” for Northern Ireland and said that parties and communities here would need time to look at the detail of the agreement.
“It’s now for the parties to consider this and decide how to take it forward for the people of Northern Ireland,” he added.
Responding to the agreement reached by the UK Government and European Union, Michael Bell OBE, Executive Director, Northern Ireland Food and Drink Association (NIFDA) said the Association welcomed the “considerable efforts” of the UK Government and the EU.
“Since the referendum and subsequent negotiations, the priority for the Northern Ireland food and drink industry has been for a durable negotiated solution that maintains frictionless trade and allows our businesses to grow and thrive,” he said.
“Alongside the wider business community we have urged solutions that deliver local businesses affordability, certainty, simplicity and stability.
“It will take time to fully analyse the document and understand implications for our members, but on first reading the Windsor Framework looks substantial and balanced, and represents the kind of pragmatic, practical solutions that we have been urging. We are working through the detail of the deal, but the agreement itself is an important step forward by both the UK Government and European Union.”
Chief Executive of Retail NI, Glyn Roberts said the new agreement “needs to work”.
“On an initial analysis, this new agreement represents welcome progress towards providing the stability and certainty that our retail, wholesale and supplier
members are seeking,” he said.
“The technical detail of this agreement will need to be studied further and, following consultation with our membership, we will be able to comment more definitively.
“In the interim, what is blatantly evident, is that the agreement needs to work, not just for all the businesses in our local supply chain, but also for local consumers. Ongoing engagement between the business community and the EU and UK Government will be critical as the implementation process of this deal begins.
“It is imperative that the NI Executive and Assembly is now restored to deal with the huge economic challenges that lie ahead. Northern Ireland needs a working government,” he added.