UK Government Stands by Windsor Framework Deal on Brexit Despite DUP Objection.

The UK government has no plans to seek changes to its new agreement with the EU on post-Brexit trading arrangements with Northern Ireland despite the Democratic Unionist Party’s (DUP’s) decision to vote against it, Downing Street has said.
The so-called Windsor Framework—which Prime Minister Rishi Sunak agreed with the European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen in February—aims to solve the dispute between the UK and the EU over the Northern Ireland Protocol by significantly reducing the number of post-Brexit checks on goods entering Northern Ireland from Great Britain.
On Wednesday, British MPs will vote on regulations to implement the so-called “Stormont brake,” a key part of the framework that would allow a minority of lawmakers in the Northern Ireland Assembly to flag concerns about the imposition of new EU laws in the British province—a move that could lead to a UK government veto.
Epoch Times PhotoDUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson speaks to a PA reporter at his party offices in Parliament Buildings, Belfast, Northern Ireland, on March 20, 2023. (David Young/PA Media)
DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson said on Monday that the party will vote against the government in the context of its “ongoing concerns and the need to see further progress secured.”
In response, Downing Street said ministers “remain confident that this is the best deal for Northern Ireland.”
Sunak’s official spokesman said: “Of course we wanted to give the DUP and other parties as much time as possible to consider the deal and come to a view.
“Equally we need to provide certainty to the people and businesses of Northern Ireland which is why we have started the process of votes.”
The spokesman said the DUP are “important partners” and ministers stand ready to “answer any further questions they have and provide any necessary reassurance and we stand ready to do that.”

Stormont Brake

The UK government and the European Commission unveiled the Windsor Framework on Feb. 27 after months of intensive negotiations aimed at reducing checks on Irish Sea trade created by the Northern Ireland Protocol, part of the Brexit withdrawal deal.
While cutting back on checks required on goods destined for use in Northern Ireland arriving from Great Britain, the deal also contains a new mechanism, the Stormont brake, which Sunak said puts the region in a “special” position, allowing Northern Ireland politicians to oppose new EU goods rules.
Epoch Times PhotoUndated photo of Parliament Buildings, often referred to as Stormont, in Belfast, Northern Ireland, UK. (Paul Faith/PA)
The “brake” offers a minority of the lawmakers in the Northern Ireland Assembly (MLAs)—30 from at least two parties—the ability to refer to the UK government its concerns about the introduction of new EU laws in Northern Ireland.
The government could then potentially prevent the application of those laws in the region.
Sunak has also committed to amending the 1998 Northern Ireland Act to provide further reassurance to unionists about the region’s constitutional status within the UK.

‘Still Some Way to Go’

However, while the DUP said the Windsor Framework has addressed some of its concerns with the protocol, it said significant problems remain.
Announcing the party’s intention to vote against the government on the Stormont brake, Donaldson said, “Whilst representing real progress, the brake does not deal with the fundamental issue which is the imposition of EU law by the protocol.”
He did not rule out ultimately backing the Windsor Framework but insisted the government would first have to address and resolve the outstanding issues his party has.
“Clearly there is still some way to go, there is a lot more work to be done. We’re engaged with the government on that, and we will make our judgments whenever we see the final picture of all of this,” he told the PA news agency.
The DUP leader suggested those changes could be secured by way of domestic legislation at Westminster, rather than a renegotiation with Brussels.
“We do believe that the UK government has within its power the ability to bring forward legislation that safeguards Northern Ireland’s place within the United Kingdom and our ability to trade within the internal market of the United Kingdom,” he said.

‘Unequivocal Veto’

But Downing Street rejected the DUP’s assertion that the “imposition of EU law” is still an issue.
The prime minister’s official spokesman said: “It is set out in the legal text. The EU has no role in deciding whether the brake is used or whether the rule is disapplied. The treaty is clear it is for the people of the UK alone.
“It is up to MLAs in the Northern Ireland Assembly to decide whether to trigger the brake … and then if triggered the rule in question is suspended automatically from coming into effect.
“The UK government has an unequivocal veto to enable the rule to be permanently disapplied.”
Northern Ireland has not had a functioning local government at Stormont for over a year since the DUP withdrew from the power-sharing executive in protest at the terms of the Northern Ireland Protocol.
The immediate future of devolution at Stormont rests on whether the DUP agrees to go back into power-sharing.
London and Brussels are both keen to see the institution restored ahead of next month’s landmark 25th anniversary of the Good Friday peace agreement.

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