|Representatives of the UK and the EU sign the Windsor Framework, March 24, 2023. (Photo: VOV)
The Windsor Framework was agreed by the UK government and the European Commission at the end of February after more than 2 years of negotiations. Implementing the Framework is expected to bring great benefits to both sides, especially the UK.
Fixing the Northern Ireland Protocol was important. That’s the part of the Brexit agreement meant to avoid a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland while preserving the integrity of the EU’s single market for goods.
Notable contents of the Windsor Framework
The Windsor Framework makes important adjustments related to the Northern Ireland, the most controversial part of the Brexit Agreement signed at the end of 2019. The Northern Ireland issue was addressed with concessions from both the EU and the UK, which were negotiated and signed by President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen and British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak.
The most significant change is a new system of checks on goods moving from Great Britain to Northern Ireland. Goods destined to stay in Northern Ireland will go through a “green lane” and have far fewer checks and controls. Goods moving on to Ireland and/or the rest of the EU will have to go through a “red lane” and be subject to full controls and checks.
The EU has agreed to a new “Stormont Brake” mechanism that allows the Northern Ireland Assembly to be able to object to the application of some (but not all) updated or amended EU laws, mainly those concerning goods if they are “significantly different” from existing rules in Northern Ireland. The UK accepts the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice (ECJ) in limited areas in Northern Ireland.
Analysts say the Windsor Framework is a sophisticated compromise between the EU and the UK. The UK achieves its goal of free movement of goods within its domestic market. For the EU a key benefit is maintaining the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice in Northern Ireland and relative customs control over British goods. The EU preserves the 1998 Good Friday (Belfast) Agreement that ended a 3-decade civil war that killed nearly 3,500 people in Ireland.
Impacts on future EU-UK relations
Experts say the Windsor Framework will have impacts on future EU-UK relations. The two are giving each other important cooperation opportunities for mutual development. One cooperation area that they can immediately work on is UK access to the EU’s Horizon Europe system, a large-scale scientific research and innovation program worth about 95 billion euros from 2021 to 2027.
The agreement restores some of the trust that has been lost in the post-Brexit period. One sign is that France, one of the EU’s locomotives (along with Germany and Italy) has changed its approach to the UK and in February hosted the first UK-France summit in 5 years. The summit was held a few days after Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and EC President Ursula von der Leyen completed the Windsor Framework. EU media has reported that the UK will soon resume negotiations with Spain on Gibraltar.