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Brexit. The Windsor framework does not end the topic of Britain leaving the European Union

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A new agreement between the UK and the European Union amending the Northern Ireland Protocol closes important unresolved issues, but it is not yet the end of Brexit, experts from the London-based think-tank UK in a Changing Europe believe.

Presented last week by British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, Windsor frames, modifying the much disputed protocol, provide for the removal of controls on those goods imported into Northern Ireland from the rest of the United Kingdom which remain there; enable the import of certain products that have so far been prohibited due to EU regulations and introduce a mechanism, called the Stormont Brakewhich allows the Northern Irish Parliament to block the entry into force of new EU regulations in the province in certain situations. However, some EU regulations will be maintainedwhat is the price for that northern Ireland remains in the EU single market. – Both sides made concessions, including some they previously said were impossible. European Commission she has given in much more than she was willing to give in before – the question is if she did it because she now has a partner in Sunak whom she trusts more than she did before Boris Johnson and Liz Truss, or because in recent years she has also noticed that the protocol causes some negative consequences in Northern Ireland that she had not thought about before – said Prof. Anand Menon, Director UK in a Changing Europe.

The Northern Ireland Protocol creates a border within the UK

The EU has recognized that the Northern Ireland Protocol effectively creates a customs border within the UK and she understood that she could not expect the government in London – even if it had agreed to it during the negotiations – to accept this situation permanently. In addition, she seems to have overestimated the importance of the Northern Irish economy, which is actually small, and the threat that free trade with it could pose to the EU’s single market. She overestimated the importance of North-South trade (between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland – PAP) and underestimated East-West trade, i.e. how much goods came to Northern Ireland from Great Britain (EnglandScotland and Wales) – Jill Rutter, a think-tank expert, pointed out, adding that both London and Brussels understood that in the current geopolitical situation in Europe they need each other and it is not worth letting the dispute over the protocol obscure much more important matters.

Brexit still going on…

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They both agreed that while the Windsor framework contains significant facilitations, especially from the point of view of the people of Northern Ireland, Brexit is not over yet, but at most they close the next stage of Britain’s exit from the EU. – Brexit is not complete, because the TCA (trade and cooperation agreement, regulating relations between the UK and the EU – PAP) contains many potential traps for the future, issues that will have to be negotiated and each of them has the potential to turn into a dispute. So formal Brexit negotiations will go on forever and the relationship between the UK and the EU will never be fully stabilized. It is an open question whether they can be both economic competitors and geostrategic allies at the same time. Maintaining friendship while being a competitor will be a challenge for both sides, Menon pointed out.

What is a Stormont Brake?

What Rishi Sunak presents in Windsor frames as the element that changes the conditions of the game the most is stormont brake. The British prime minister is convincing those who have called for a complete overhaul of EU legislation in Northern Ireland that this mechanism actually gives Northern Ireland residents, through MPs, the ability to veto new EU legislation that they don’t like.

However, Jill Rutter is of the opinion that in practice Stormont’s brake may never be used. He points out that, in principle, it should be treated as a last resort option, and besides, it cannot be used without consequences, because in what situation does the EU have the right to take proportionate measures to protect the single market, and this will be a disincentive for too light resorting to this mechanism.

The Democratic Unionist Party has been paralyzing the authorities for a year

As for the position of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), the group that has paralyzed the Northern Irish government for more than a year in protest against the protocol, Menon and Rutter agree that it would be a rational decision for that party to accept the new deal.

– The position of the DUP may be determined by the mood of public opinion. If they indicate that the inhabitants support them – and the appearance of previously unavailable goods will be its first tangible effect, besides, let us remember that the majority of the inhabitants of Northern Ireland also supported the protocol itself – then further resistance will not be justified – explains Prof. Menon. “The DUP could even play the case to its advantage, showing that the changes were made thanks to its stubbornness. But the problem is that the DUP has moved from a position of opposition to the practical inconveniences caused by the protocol to a more fundamental opposition to maintaining EU rules, and here is a new the deal doesn’t change much,” Rutter noted.


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