The European Commission and the U.K. government have reportedly agreed a new deal over the post-Brexit trade arrangements for Northern Ireland.
EU executive chief Ursula von der Leyen traveled to Windsor on Monday to sign off on an agreement aimed to improve the existing Northern Ireland Protocol, the part of the Brexit deal that sets out trade rules for the region.
“An agreement has been reached. The deal is done,” a senior government source told the BBC on Monday afternoon.
The protocol was first implemented following the U.K.’s official withdrawal from the European Union in 2019 but has been fraught with difficulties.
Unionists in both Northern Ireland and Britain argued the protocol had effectively introduced a sea border for trade down the Irish Sea, and kept part of the United Kingdom under the authority of the European Union.
The European Union had insisted on special trading arrangements for Northern Ireland due to the fact the territory has a land border with the Republic of Ireland, an EU member. The commission insisted on a separate trade relationship for Northern Ireland in order to preserve the integrity of the single market.
The fallout following the protocol’s implementation led to political instability as the pro-U.K. Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) withdrew from the country’s devolved assembly in protest after checks were installed on goods arriving from the British mainland.
The DUP has continuously insisted that any future agreement must not allow for a continuing role of the European Court of Justice (ECJ). One of the party’s longest-serving MPs, Sammy Wilson, told media on Monday the party will reserve its judgment on the new agreement until it has seen the full text, but insisted a key factor for them will be whether or not Northern Ireland remains subject to EU law.
“All of the other problems that have arisen — the trade barriers, the disruption of trade, the inability for the government to apply government policy in Northern Ireland — all stem from the fact that Northern Ireland remains for manufactured goods and agriculture in the single market and is subject to Brussels law not British law,” he told Talk TV.
“And that will be the ultimate test for us as unionists. It ought to be the ultimate test for the prime minister,” Wilson added.
U.K. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak is expected to make a statement to the House of Commons on the new agreement later on Monday.