Windsor Framework: Sunak urges Tory MPs not to create ‘another Westminster drama’ over deal

British prime minister is in Co Antrim to secure support for new deal to resolve long-running post-Brexit disagreement on Northern Ireland protocol

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The EU and UK have reached a new deal to change trade rules for Northern Ireland in a bid to resolve the long-running post-Brexit disagreement and end the North’s political stalemate. The key thing is, how will the DUP respond?

Here is a quick summation of some key reporting.

Links to full texts of the Windsor Framework documents:


This liveblog has now ended. You can look back on all of today’s entries by scrolling down.


British PM urges backbench Tory 1922 Committee not to create ‘another Westminster drama’

British prime minister Rishi Sunak has told Tory MPs to give the Democratic Unionist Party “time and space” to consider his Brexit deal as they were warned it is the best offer available.

Mr Sunak said he was “confident” they would back it as he urged colleagues not to create another “Westminster drama” after his new Windsor agreement for Northern Ireland was broadly welcomed.

But Conservatives were waiting with “bated breath” to see if the DUP will back the deal, which is hoped to restore powersharing to Stormont after a year-long absence.

Mr Sunak addressed Tory backbenchers at the 1922 Committee in the Commons on Tuesday evening after a visit to Northern Ireland in an attempt to shore up support.

He was understood to have told Conservative colleagues he had “spent a lot of time” with DUP leader Jeffrey Donaldson, whose party walked out of Stormont in protest at Boris Johnson’s Northern Ireland protocol.

“And I would just say one thing to you all: we should give him and the DUP time and space,” said Mr Sunak said as he acknowledged a “spectrum of views” within the unionist party. “So let’s not pressure them for an instant answer. Let’s also remember that the last thing the public want is another Westminster drama.”

The framework removes the protocol’s barriers on trade across the Irish Sea and hands a “veto” to politicians in Stormont on EU law — a set of concessions from Brussels that went further than many expected.

But it still includes what Mr Sunak argues is a “small and limited” role for the European Court of Justice.

It was being argued that any resistance to the deal will not result in changes to the framework as reopening an agreement which took months to negotiate is not seen as a workable solution. With opposition parties offering support, there is little chance of it failing to receive support in parliament when put to a vote, so the DUP will not be effectively handed a veto over the process.

Speaking to reporters after the 1922 meeting, Northern Ireland Office Minister Steve Baker said: “I cannot see how we will get better than this … this is the deal.”

The arch-Brexiteer, who helped sink Theresa May’s premiership over her Brexit wranglings, added: “I’m really clear: there isn’t a different deal available, this is what’s been negotiated and it’s good.”

He said colleagues in the meeting were “clearly concerned” about whether the DUP will re-enter powersharing after they walked out over issues including trade barriers imposed by the protocol.

But Mr Baker said he believes the DUP will ultimately back the Windsor pact.

“People are worried about the DUP but there’s an earnest sense of relief and support. I think we all believe he’s done it but now we just wait with bated breath to see if the DUP agrees,” he said. “I recognise this is a very difficult time for the DUP, they’ve got hard choices to make but I believe in the end they will agree with me that this is a good deal for the union in all the circumstances.”

The European Research Group of Tory Eurosceptics were joined by Mr Donaldson at a meeting on Tuesday evening when they were considering their next steps.

Mr Sunak will continue efforts to win over Tory Eurosceptics and Mr Johnson, who is yet to give a verdict on the new deal, which replaces the protocol he negotiated.

The prime minister indicated he had discussed the deal with his predecessor, telling BBC Radio 4′s Today programme: “Of course, I speak to the former prime minister.”


Number 10 denies Sunak seeks single market access after hailing NI’s opportunities

Downing Street has been forced to stress that British prime minister Rishi Sunak’s hailing of Northern Ireland’s access to European Union and British markets should not be seen as an endorsement of single-market benefits for the whole of the United Kingdom.

The prime minister has said the deal would create “the world’s most exciting” economic zone.

“If we get this right, if we get this framework implemented, if we get the Executive back up and running here, Northern Ireland is in the unbelievably special position — unique position in the entire world, European continent — in having privileged access, not just to the UK home market, which is enormous, but also the European Union single market.

“Nobody else has that. No one. Only you guys: only here, and that is the prize.”

Critics online were swift to point out that the entire UK had full access to the EU’s single market before Brexit.

The anti-Brexit campaign Best for Britain tweeted: “Sunak in Belfast (sic) emphasises what ‘a hugely privileged position’ it is to have access to both EU and UK markets, and how it is definitely worth the relatively small trade-off of following some Brussels regulation. Why not extend this ‘fantastic deal’ to the whole country? Oh.”

Chairwoman of the Labour Movement for Europe Stella Creasy said: “The prime minister is boasting about the benefits of the single market and customs union for businesses in Northern Ireland, whilst denying those same benefits to businesses struggling in the rest of the UK with our current economic crisis.”

The Walthamstow MP said “we do need to remind those who brag about Brexit” of the “real cost to our economy and our country it has created”.

Mr Sunak’s remarks could also anger hardline Eurosceptics in his own party, who may interpret them as a secret wish to move towards closer trading ties with the bloc.

Pressed on the issue later, Mr Sunak’s spokesman said: “The British people made a decision in 2016 and we are seeing the benefits of that decision, whether that’s in the ability to change our environment laws, some of the tax elements the Prime Minister talked about just today, in fact. With regards to Northern Ireland, it is simply a fact that because of our respect for the Good Friday {Belfast] Agreement and the central importance: Northern Ireland’s unique position means it needs to have access to both markets, not least to avoid a Border on the island of Ireland, which nobody wants to see.

“That puts it in a unique position and what the framework does is finally cement those capabilities.”


British PM returns to London where he is expected to brief Tory backbench 1922 Committee

Latest update: British prime minister Rishi Sunak has arrived back in London, where he is expected to address a meeting at 5pm of the influential 1922 Committee of backbench Tory MPs.

The group will meet in Westminster to discuss the Windsor Framework deal unveiled by Mr Sunak yesterday alongside European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen. So far there has been practically no direct criticism of the deal among Tory MPs and Mr Sunak is not expected to be in for a rough ride this evening. The 1922 Committee chairman Graham Brady has already referred to the deal as a “massive step forward”.

Later this evening, another influential grouping of Tory backbenchers, the European Research Group of Eurosceptics, is also due to meet in Westminster to scrutinise the deal. The ERG’s so-called “star chamber” of legal experts is understood to be going through the agreement to check it after the group’s chairman, Mark Francois, said he hoped there were no “nasty surprises” in the legal text. — Mark Paul in Westminster


How the deal was done: No definitive moment — instead a long hard slog towards a final arrangement

Hours before British prime minister Rishi Sunak and European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen met on Monday, United Kingdom and European Union officials were still making last-minute checks and adjustments to the final deal.

There was no single eureka moment as the two sides spent many late nights and long hours trying to find a deal, often fuelled by underwhelming egg sandwiches in Brussels. Instead, it was a long, hard slog towards a final arrangement that intensified after Mr Sunak entered Downing Street.

Mr Sunak and his top cabinet ministers sought to reset relations with the EU after the more turbulent tenures of Boris Johnson and Liz Truss. But the negotiations to get to the Windsor Framework did not start from scratch. The proposal for a “green lane”, with significantly fewer checks, and a “red lane” for anything that could cross the Border and enter the EU’s single market, had been around in a UK policy paper last summer.

Downing Street said that under the triumvirate of Mr Sunak, foreign secretary James Cleverly and Northern Ireland Secretary Chris Heaton-Harris, talks had moved towards a more “intensive” stage.

“There have been ad hoc talks at specific points under different prime ministers,” said Mr Sunak’s spokesman. “Certainly, under this prime minister, we were moving to a more intensive phase of negotiations.”

It was the idea of a Stormont brake, a proposal that caught many observers by surprise when it was unveiled on Monday, that appeared to play a crucial role in ensuring talks reached a successful conclusion.

“Some elements like the green lane had been under discussion for some time, some such as the brake were new elements,” said a Downing Street official.

But even amid the positive mood music, talks were tricky and continued until nearly the final moment as teams sweated over pages and pages of legal text.

British officials worked in small teams, aided in some instances by experts from across Whitehall, as hopes grew that some kind of deal could be brokered. A source close to the negotiations said: “These things are gradual discussions that continue into the small hours in windowless buildings.”

There had been speculation, denied by Downing Street, that Mr Sunak had been quietly sitting on a deal for the last few weeks as he attempted to win over the Democratic Unionists and Tory backbenchers before unveiling it publicly.

But on the day the deal was unveiled in Windsor, negotiators went to bed between 2am and 3am as work went down to the wire.

Mr Sunak and Ms von der Leyen went through the details of the deal when the pair met, although the final elements resolved by negotiators were understood to be largely technical.

Now it will be up to the DUP to decide whether the deal does enough to bring to an end the saga over protocol. — PA


Rishi Sunak ‘passionately committed to making sure’ that the Belfast Agreement works

British PM Rishi Sunak has spoken of his passion for peace in Northern Ireland, revealing he first came to understand some of the region’s complexities from his university room-mate in 1998.

Mr Sunak shared accommodation with a student from Omagh at Oxford University in the same year the Belfast agreement was signed. It was also the year the Co Tyrone town was devastated by a dissident republican bomb that killed 29 people and injured hundreds more.

During a visit to a Coca-Cola bottling plant in Co Antrim on Tuesday, he opened his address to business leaders by saying he was thinking about and praying for Det Chief Insp John Caldwell, who remains in hospital after being shot by dissidents in Omagh last week.

In response to a point raised about how divisive Brexit’s Northern Ireland protocol has been for politics in the region, Mr Sunak said he believes the Windsor Framework restores the balance which the protocol disrupted.

He said: “I went to university in 1998, so the time of the [Belfast] Agreement, that’s when I became an adult, my room-mate at university was from Omagh, and I came from Southampton, I didn’t know anyone very well from Northern Ireland. He, as it turned out, didn’t really know any Indian people, so we spent a lot of time … learning about each other’s backgrounds.

“It was eye-opening to me how he had grown up, what he had grown up having to deal with and live with. I’m passionately committed to making sure that the … [Belfast] Agreement works because it brought peace and stability to Northern Ireland, and that is so precious, and we are reminded of how precious just in the past week.”

He went on to describe how he believes the new protocol deal restores that balance and how he has spent “time, personal attention and care” on the issue.

Mr Sunak said: “The Belfast/Good Friday Agreement, if it’s about anything, it’s about respecting that balance, it’s about respecting the aspirations and identities of all the communities in Northern Ireland so we can move beyond division and put it behind us, and move forward together.

“It did that very well but the protocol disrupted it, which is why it needed resolving, that’s why I spent so much time, personal attention and care on this issue. It’s why I passionately believe that, yesterday, the Windsor Framework restores balance.

“It means that things can flow freely around the UK internal market as they should because we are one country and that should be easy, it means we protect Northern Ireland’s place in the union so that if you’re living in Northern Ireland it looks, feels and is the same as if you’re anywhere else in the country and have the same benefits, and crucially it restores sovereignty to the people and institutions so you are in control of your destiny because that is what is right.” ― PA


DUP urged to reach swift conclusion over protocol deal and reboot powersharing arrangements

Stormont leaders have urged the DUP to reach a swift conclusion over the Windsor Framework to unlock the powersharing logjam.

British prime minister Rishi Sunak met with the leaders of some of the political parties during a visit to Northern Ireland to sell the benefits of the deal he has agreed with the EU on post-Brexit trading arrangements.

The framework removes the Northern Ireland protocol’s barriers on trade across the Irish Sea and hands a “veto” to politicians in Stormont on EU law.

Mr Sunak met Alliance Party leader Naomi Long and Ulster Unionist leader Doug Beattie in Co Antrim. The DUP and SDLP leaders are in London and Sinn Féin Stormont leader Michelle O’Neill said she had spoken to Mr Sunak on the phone.

She tweeted: “I welcomed yesterday’s breakthrough. The deal is now done. My key message is to let’s keep momentum going. The priority must now be getting Stormont up and moving without delay.”

DUP leader Jeffrey Donaldson, whose party has been boycotting Stormont, said they would take time to consider the detail of the framework.

But other party leaders urged the DUP to get back to work.

“I think we are in the right space. Key for us now is we need to get this done. We need to get a decision from the DUP and we need to get back to our day jobs,” said Ms Long.

“We want to be sitting in committee rooms and in the Assembly chamber doing our jobs … This is the deal we could have had in 2019 if we had a serious prime minister who was willing to engage respectfully with the EU.”

Ms Long also said her party had some concerns about how the Stormont brake, which allows the Northern Ireland assembly to flag concerns about the application of new EU laws on goods, would operate.

“It remains unclear in terms of how it will function … The one thing we do not want to do is to inject more instability into the institutions at Stormont,” she added

Mr Beattie said the Stormont brake “is one of those things which sounds good when you talk about it, but as soon as you start delving into it and understanding how it actually works, it throws up more questions than it does answers. But I can see the prime minister is working hard to sell this deal and we will work hard to scrutinise it.n Anyone who is saying this should take weeks and months, I think, is being disingenuous.”

He added: “Any political party should be able to look at this and engage with their party at every level … if we drag this out for months then businesses will be sitting there not knowing whether they are coming or going. We need to hear from business, we need to know if it works for them … People need to show the courage of their convictions, look at the deal, come up with your analysis and make your pitch.” — PA

Windsor Framework: Micheál Martin welcomes ‘new chapter’ in the relationship between the UK and EU

Tánaiste Micheál Martin has said the deal was a “new chapter in the relationship between the United Kingdom and the European Union”.

“In Northern Ireland, our main objective is to have the institutions of the Good Friday Agreement restored - the Assembly and the Executive up and running,” Mr Martin told Newstalk.

“I think it’s fair that people will be given an opportunity to examine what is a very comprehensive package of documentation.

“The people of Northern Ireland want the decision that they made in the last election validated, in the form of the convening of the assembly, the election of the executive, that can deal with the issues that affect people in Northern Ireland in their daily lives.

“I think the ground has been set to facilitate and to enable all of that.”



What deadline do the DUP have to respond to Windsor Framework?

British prime minister Rishi Sunak sidestepped questions about how much time he will give the DUP to consider the Windsor Framework and what would happen if they reject it, saying he is “confident” parties will recognise it “gets the balance right” for Northern Ireland.

“People need the time to engage with it, understand it, ask the questions,” the prime minister told reporters during his visit to the Coca-Cola plant in Co Antrim.

“We’re going to give them that and answer the questions in the meantime, but I’m confident they will come to see this for what it is, which is I think a historic achievement that gets the balance right for Northern Ireland.”

He said time was needed for all parties to understand the Stormont brake and that the British government wants to “to work with them to codify how that is going to work”.

But, he added, “we’ve not been shy about saying ‘I think the people of Northern Ireland need and deserve their government’.

“They need it to be up and running and delivering for them, whether it’s in public services or whether it’s in taking advantage of the incredible opportunities in the Windsor Framework.”

No 10 has not set a deadline for a response from Jeffrey Donaldson’s Democratic Unionist Party to the deal on the Northern Ireland Protocol, with officials stressing that the prime minister understood parties would want to take time to consider it.

“It is certainly welcome that Jeffrey Donaldson recognises the importance of the brake as something that restores the democratic deficit,” the prime minister’s official spokesman said.

“He has been very clear, understandably, that the DUP wants to take the time before passing judgment on the framework.”

The spokesman said that the British government “fully respects” that. — PA


Northern Ireland Brexit deal: what is the Stormont Brake?

Simon Carswell reports the new ‘emergency’ mechanism agreed by EU and UK that will give Stormont assembly a say in new EU laws applying in Northern Ireland

The EU and UK have agreed a new mechanism for post-Brexit trading rules in Northern Ireland that gives the Northern Ireland Assembly a say in new EU laws applying in the North.

Why has this been agreed?

When the UK’s departure from the EU came into effect in 2021, Northern Ireland was left under EU rules for goods and a trade border was established in the Irish Sea to avoid a politically divisive customs land border with the Republic, an EU member state. Unionists and the British Conservative government complained that the protocol left a “democratic deficit” – Northern Ireland would be subject to new and existing EU rules without having a say in influencing them.

On Monday, British prime minister Rishi Sunak said the new Windsor Framework would give the Northern Ireland Assembly a “clear process” to pull “an emergency brake” to stop any new EU laws or law changes that would have “significant and lasting effects on everyday lives”.

The new deal, changing the existing Northern Ireland Brexit protocol, creates a mechanism allowing elected MLAs in the Assembly to raise an objection to any new EU goods rules.

Minster for Enterprise, Trade and Employment Simon Coveney described the brake as “essentially a democratic red flag that can be raised in Stormont”.

How will the Stormont Brake work? Read the article in full here.



Windsor Framework has the potential to make Northern Ireland ‘the world’s most exciting economic zone’, British PM says

British prime minister Rishi Sunak insisted that his new Brexit deal for Northern Ireland addressed the concerns of unionists despite the “small and limited” role for European Union law and its court.

The prime minister, who was visiting Northern Ireland to sell the deal secured with the European Union, said he believed “hand on heart” that it addressed the concerns expressed about the current post-Brexit trading arrangements which triggered the collapse of powersharing in Stormont.

The Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), which brought down the Northern Ireland executive over the measures, is considering its response to the new Windsor Framework deal.

The framework removes the Northern Ireland Protocol’s barriers on trade across the Irish Sea and hands a “veto” to politicians in Stormont on EU law – a set of concessions from Brussels that went further than some expected.

But it still includes a role for the European Court of Justice, with the DUP and Tory backbenchers set to study the details of the complex set of arrangements in the coming days.

On a visit to Lisburn’s Coca-Cola factory, he said the deal would create “the world’s most exciting economic zone” with access to EU and UK markets.

“If we get this right, if we get this framework implemented, if we get the Executive back up and running here, Northern Ireland is in the unbelievably special position – unique position in the entire world, European continent – in having privileged access, not just to the UK home market, which is enormous, but also the European Union single market.

“Nobody else has that. No one. Only you guys: only here, and that is the prize.”

Critics online were swift to point out that the entire UK had full access to the EU’s single market before Brexit. — PA


‘The hassle of getting a supermarket lorry from Great Britain to Northern Ireland was enormous’- Sunak

Britain’s prime minister Rishi Sunak acknowledged the shortages on supermarket shelves but insisted the situation was improving.

Mr Sunak, speaking at a factory in Northern Ireland to promote his Windsor Framework deal on Tuesday, said: “The hassle of getting a supermarket lorry from Great Britain to Northern Ireland was enormous, hundreds of certificate, tonnes of bureaucracy to get through.

“And worse, what was available in Great Britain on the shelves in the supermarket – which I know is a bit challenging at the moment but is getting better – but more generally, was not available on the shelves in Northern Ireland and that wasn’t right.

“And we’ve resolved all those issues, there’s going to be the same things in both places and that’s as it should be.”


‘The DUP will take a collective decision,’ Jeffrey Donaldson says

DUP leader Jeffrey Donaldson has said the party would take its time to study the legal text of the deal on Northern Ireland protocol before reaching a decision.

Mr Donaldson said the party would take legal advice on the agreement.

“We need to understand this agreement fully. We will consult it,” he said.

“We’ll look at the arrangements in relation to how the movement of goods will operate in practice.”

He told RTÉ Radio 1 on Tuesday there was no division within the party.

“Colleagues will of course express opinions, but the DUP will take a collective decision on this,” Mr Donaldson said.

“We need to examine in detail the legal text and indeed in their views, both Sammy Wilson and Ian Paisley, have made clear that we need to examine the legal text and understand exactly what this agreement is.

“We will take our time.”


Donaldson says there is no split in the DUP party over deal

DUP party leader Jeffrey Donaldson has said there is “absolutely not” a split in his party over the Windsor Framework.

Speaking on BBC Radio Ulster today, the DUP leader said the party would assess the legal text before coming to a “collective” conclusion.

“Let me be clear, our party officers, our assembly members, our members of parliament, and ultimately, our party executive, will determine the party’s approach on this issue,” he said.

“We will consult and we will take our time. We will talk to people. We will listen to what people are saying, they will articulate their views. Of course, there will be a diversity and a range of views.— PA


Sunak suggests Windsor Framework ‘about what is best for people of Northern Ireland’

British prime minister Rishi Sunak has suggested that the new Windsor Framework which was unveiled yesterday was “not necessarily about me or one political party... it’s about what’s best for people and communities”. He described the deal as a “huge step forward” for the people of Northern Ireland.

While DUP leader Jeffery Donaldson has given a cautious welcome to the deal, the party has yet to decide if they can support it, saying they require time to consider the detail of the lengthy document.

Mr Donaldson said the agreement goes “some way” to addressing their concerns, but issues remain.

He told BBC Radio 4′s Today programme that “at first reading”, the Stormont brake mechanism gives the devolved government in Northern Ireland “the ability to apply the brake where the application of EU law for the purposes of facilitating cross-border trade impacts on our ability to trade with the rest of the United Kingdom”.

Sir Jeffrey said Northern Ireland should have unfettered access to the GB market, and if changes to EU law were to impact that “then it is right that Stormont has a brake and that we’re able to ultimately veto any new such law”.

Speaking to BBC Radio 4′s Today programme this morning Mr Sunak said the deal had been agreed with the British government and the EU.”It is about what is best for the people of Northern Ireland,” he said.

Mr Sunak is due in Belfast to secure support for the so-called Windsor Framework. He said businesses in Northern Ireland want stability and certainty.

Mr Sunak said businesses had told him that if the protocol issue is resolved, that will unlock a lot of investment. He also said that not all customs checks on the border would be removed as they would be required for goods in the so-called red channel, or set for onward transit into the single market.

Asked about border posts at Irish Sea crossings, the Prime Minister told BBC Radio 4′s Today programme: “One of the key achievements of the Windsor Framework is it removes any sense of an Irish Sea border, so that when goods move from Great Britain to Northern Ireland, they will now move without customs bureaucracy, they will move without routine checks.”

He said: “The border posts are there very specifically for the red lane. Because as part of having a green lane, where goods flow freely within our UK internal market, if goods are actually going to the Republic of Ireland, ie going into the EU, well, that’s not our country and it’s entirely reasonable, that we have checks for those types of goods.

He said role of European Union law in Northern Ireland “only persists for as long as the people are happy with it”.

“What we have done yesterday is introduce a new measure – the Stormont brake – which gives power to the institution in Northern Ireland, Stormont, to say that if there’s a new law that’s going to significantly impact people’s lives coming from the EU, they will be able to block it,” he said.

He added: “I have spent a lot of time listening to unionist communities from Northern Ireland and indeed all parties that I’ve engaged with, because this is about everybody, and I have taken the time to understand their concerns.

“I am confident that the Windsor framework addresses those concerns but I also respect that everybody, including unionist representatives of all parties, will need the time and the space to consider the detail.” – Agencies