The British House of Commons has voted in favor of an agreement between Great Britain and the EU in the Brexit dispute over Northern Ireland. MEPs overwhelmingly supported a mechanism that would give the Northern Ireland regional parliament a say in how new EU rules are applied in the British part of the country. 515 MPs voted in favor, only 29 voted against.
Rishi Sunak and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen at their meeting in Windsor at the end of February
The provision put to the vote is part of the “Windsor Framework” sealed by Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen at the end of February. With the supplement to the so-called Northern Ireland Protocol, the long-standing dispute over the Brexit rules for the British provinces was settled.
Plus points wrestling with Boris Johnson
The fact that Sunak was able to prevail against opposition from his own Conservative Party and the Northern Irish Protestant Party DUP is considered an important success. His party friends and former heads of government, Boris Johnson and Liz Truss, also opposed him. Sunak’s triumph may have put a damper on Johnson’s ambitions to return to the top of government.
However, the rejection by the DUP is likely to give the prime minister a headache. The party has been blocking the formation of a regional government in Northern Ireland for months. According to the 1998 peace agreement known as the Good Friday Agreement, this must always consist of the two largest parties, the Catholic and the Protestant.
There are still no signs that the stalemate in the province will be resolved. In case of doubt, a new election must be called. However, this could also play into the hands of the Catholic Republican party Sinn Fein. It aims to unite Northern Ireland with the Republic of Ireland and emerged as the strongest party in the last election.
More power thanks to the “Stormont brake”
The Northern Ireland Protocol was negotiated as part of the Brexit deal. It stipulates that the customs border between Great Britain and the EU runs in the Irish Sea. This is intended to prevent controls between British Northern Ireland and EU member Ireland having to be introduced and the conflict between the mostly Catholic supporters of Irish union and the predominantly Protestant supporters of the union with Great Britain flaring up again.
But the regulation also brought difficulties, for example when sending packages, medicines and taking pets with you. Some Protestants felt cut off from Britain and called for changes. These demands were taken into account in the “Windsor framework”. Thanks to the reform, the Northern Irish parliament should be able to stop changes to rules on EU goods with the so-called “Stormont brake” (named after the parliament in Belfast).
sti/uh (dpa, rtr)