Border troubles: On Brexit and the Northern Ireland protocol
Why in the news?
The UK government reached a landmark deal with the European Union (EU) on post-Brexit trade rules related to governing Northern Ireland.
About ‘Windsor Framework’
The ‘Windsor Framework’ will replace the Northern Ireland Protocol, which had proved to be among the thorniest of Brexit fall-outs, creating problems both economic and political.
The introduction of a Green lane and Red lane system for goods.
- Green lane: 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. Physical checks will be conducted if the goods are deemed suspicious, in place of the routine checks now. Also, people in Northern Ireland can order goods online from Britain easily now.
- Red lane: Goods destined for Ireland or the rest of the EU will have to take the red lane, with the attendant customs and other checks.
- The ‘Stormont Brake’: It allows Northern Ireland lawmakers and London to veto any EU regulation they believe affects the region adversely. It 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.
Objectives and Need
- 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.
- With the Windsor Framework, PM Sunak hopes to improve trade and other ties with the EU, while keeping the hard Brexiter faction of his Conservative Party happy.
Response of stakeholders
- Reactions to the new deal in political circles have been cautious, but not negative.
- Most leaders have said the agreement on the face of it looks promising, though they would properly comment only after studying it in detail.
- Industry associations have openly welcomed the deal.
- The US has also welcomed the deal.
|The Northern Ireland Protocol
● Northern Ireland is the only part of the U.K. that shares a land border with the EU, as the Republic of Ireland (or Ireland) is an EU member-state.
● Since the EU and the UK have different product standards, border checks would be necessary before goods could move from Northern Ireland to Ireland
o However, the two Irelands have had a long history of conflict, with a hard-fought peace secured only in 1998 under the Belfast Agreement, also called the Good Friday Agreement.
● It was decided the checks would be conducted between Great Britain (England, Scotland, and Wales) and Northern Ireland (which together with Great Britain forms the United Kingdom).
o This was called the Northern Ireland Protocol.
▪ Under the protocol, Northern Ireland remained in the EU single market, and trade-and-customs inspections of goods coming from Great Britain took place at its ports along the Irish Sea.