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UK and EU sign off on Windsor Framework Brexit deal - despite DUP opposition

Sky News 24/03/2023 Jennifer Scott, political reporter

UK and EU officials have signed off on a new Brexit deal in London today, despite ongoing opposition from the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP).

© PA

The Windsor Framework - designed to address problems with the post-Brexit Northern Ireland Protocol - was agreed by Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen last month.

The plan was symbolically approved in the Commons earlier this week by a large margin after a vote on one of its elements - the Stormont brake - as well as getting the nod from the Council of the EU.

The Stormont brake is a mechanism that aims to allow assembly members to flag their concerns about changes to or introductions of new EU legislation that will affect the region, giving the UK government the option to veto them.

The DUP and some prominent Tory Brexiteers - including Boris Johnson and Liz Truss - voted against the deal, saying they still had concerns about EU law taking precedence in Northern Ireland.

DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson - whose party has refused to form an executive in Northern Ireland until the protocol, negotiated by Mr Johnson, was ditched - has said the new policy is unlikely to lead his party back into a power-sharing agreement in Stormont.

However, in a release ahead of the meeting, the government said the UK and EU had "fundamentally changed the old protocol, fixing the practical problems and securing a new way forward for a prosperous, stable future for Northern Ireland".

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Foreign Secretary James Cleverly said the framework would deliver on the government's commitment "to provide stability and certainty" for the region.

"The framework is the best deal for Northern Ireland, safeguarding its place in the Union and protecting the Belfast [Good Friday] Agreement," he added.

Mr Cleverly gave his formal approval to the framework this morning alongside the European Commission's Maros Sefcovic at a joint committee meeting.

In a joint statement afterwards, the pair said there had been a "constructive atmosphere", with both sides welcoming the "positive approach" the other had taken.

They added: "These arrangements address, in a definitive manner, the challenges in the operation of the protocol on Ireland/Northern Ireland over the last two years and the everyday issues faced by people and businesses in Northern Ireland, while supporting and protecting the Good Friday or Belfast Agreement in all its parts, and protecting the integrity of the European Union's single market, and Northern Ireland's place in the United Kingdom's internal market.

"Both sides agreed to work together intensively and faithfully to implement all elements of the Windsor Framework. The United Kingdom and European Union also reaffirmed their intent to use all available mechanisms in the framework to address and jointly resolve any relevant future issues that may emerge."

The two sides hope the deal could lead to further agreements, such as on British participation in the EU's Horizon scheme for scientific research.

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