Three years after making Brexit official, the UK and EU announced a deal this Monday (27/2) with more fluid trading rules for Northern Ireland – one of the biggest sticking points involving Britain’s exit from the European bloc.
Northern Ireland is a British territory and forms the United Kingdom with England, Wales and Scotland. It is on a neighboring island and shares a land border with the Republic of Ireland, an independent country that is part of the European Union.
The 500 kilometers separating Ireland and Northern Ireland also mark the land border between the United Kingdom and the European Union.
British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and European Commission President Ursula van der Leyen said the new understanding marked a new chapter in relations between the two sides after the “divorce” caused by Brexit.
Sunak said “a referendum will be held” in the British Parliament [sobre o tema] In due course that vote will be respected.” The Labor Party, which opposes Chung, said it would support the deal.
Which was correct?
Former UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has finalized the process of leaving the European Union, withdrawing a provision originally created to avoid a closed border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.
The “backstop”, as it is called in English, will ensure passport and cargo checkpoints at the border between the two countries – the so-called “hard border” – are not turned away.
If this was to be achieved, there were fears that old tensions between the Irish and the Northern Irish would resurface.
But many Brexit supporters have said the “backstop” would actually prevent the UK from severing ties with the EU.
A new deal reached between London and Brussels attempts a middle ground for these negotiations. Check out the key points:
- Goods from the UK sent to Northern Ireland have a “green belt” and do not require checks and an export declaration;
- UK goods sent to the EU will have a “red bar”;
- When smuggling is suspected, a “green belt” check may be carried out;
- According to Prime Minister Chung, food products sold in UK supermarkets will be available on shelves in Northern Ireland;
- There will be facilities for transporting pets between Northern Ireland and the United Kingdom;
- Medicines for Northern Ireland will be approved by the British regulatory agency, not by the European Rapporteur.
For security reasons, Ireland and Northern Ireland have had a “hard border” for decades.
In 1998, a peace deal ended three decades of violent conflict between Catholic nationalists who wanted integration with Ireland and Protestant unionists who wanted to remain part of the United Kingdom.
That year – after almost two years of negotiations and 30 years of conflict – the Good Friday Agreement was signed between then British Prime Minister Tony Blair and Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern.
As a result, a new government was formed in which power was divided between the Unionists and the Nationalists.
The purpose of the agreement is for the two parties to work together in a body called the Northern Ireland Assembly.
The legislature can now take decisions that previously belonged only to the British Parliament in London.
A mechanism called the “Stormont brake” was also established.
Under the Protocol, some EU laws apply in Northern Ireland.
This process allows the Northern Irish Parliamentary Assembly (Stormont, where Northern Ireland’s legislature is located) to have the power to veto a given piece of legislation.
The mechanism is triggered if at least 30 legislators from two or more parties in the assembly sign the objection.
According to the agreement the “Stormont break” cannot be engaged for “trivial reasons” and is reserved for “significantly different” rules.
Whether Brexit supporters in the UK and Northern Ireland will be satisfied with the terms of the deal remains to be seen in the coming days.
For them, there is still the impression that the protocol loosens Northern Ireland’s ties with the rest of England.
Unionist Party leader Geoffrey Donaldson said “there is no hiding the fact that EU law will continue to apply in Northern Ireland in some areas of our economy”.
Johnson, a former British prime minister and one of the biggest Brexit activists, has not yet commented publicly on the announcement.
Prime Minister Theresa May, who has long led negotiations to leave the European bloc, hailed the decision reached between London and Brussels: “It will make a big difference”.
Sunak hopes the deal will improve cooperation between the UK and the EU, covering the regulation of financial services.
The British prime minister hopes a deal with the EU will ensure greater control within his Conservative Party and bring better popularity ratings (Labour rivals are ahead in one poll and a national election is expected in 2024).
In Parliament, Sunak said the deal ensured free trade with Northern Ireland, protected Northern Ireland’s place in the UK and protected sovereignty by eliminating the “democratic deficit”.
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