Status: 03/22/2023 5:44 p.m
In the dispute over the Brexit rules for Northern Ireland, the British House of Commons voted by a large majority in favor of an agreement with the EU. Prime Minister Sunak thus recorded an important success – despite resistance in his own party.
The British House of Commons has approved the new rules for Northern Ireland trade negotiated by Prime Minister Rishi Sunak with the EU. MEPs overwhelmingly supported a mechanism that would give the Northern Ireland regional parliament a say in how new EU rules are applied in the British part of the country. 515 MPs voted in favor, only 29 voted against.
The provision put to the vote is part of the “Windsor framework” sealed by Sunak and EU Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen at the end of February. With the supplement to the so-called Northern Ireland Protocol, the long-standing dispute over the Brexit rules for the British provinces was settled.
The fact that Sunak was able to assert himself is considered an important success. However, the prime minister was confronted with a rebellion within his own conservative ranks. His predecessor Liz Truss and her predecessor Boris Johnson had both declared their rejection of the Brexit deal, with 20 Conservative MPs voting against it. But the opposition, particularly Labor, voted in favor of the deal, giving it a comfortable majority.
Also resistance of the DUP
The Sunak triumph is likely to have put a damper on Johnson’s ambitions to return to the top of government. However, the prime minister’s rejection of the deal by the Northern Irish Protestant party DUP is likely to cause headaches. The DUP has been blocking the formation of a regional government in Northern Ireland for months. According to the 1998 peace agreement known as the Good Friday Agreement, this must always consist of the two largest parties, the Catholic and the Protestant.
There are still no signs that the stalemate in the province will be resolved. In case of doubt, a new election must be called. However, this could also play into the hands of the Catholic Republican party Sinn Fein. It aims to unite Northern Ireland with the Republic of Ireland and emerged as the strongest party in the last election.
Customs border dispute
The Northern Ireland Protocol was negotiated as part of the Brexit deal. It stipulates that the customs border between Great Britain and the EU runs in the Irish Sea. This is intended to prevent controls between British Northern Ireland and EU member Ireland having to be introduced and the conflict between the mostly Catholic supporters of Irish union and the predominantly Protestant supporters of the union with Great Britain flaring up again.
But the regulation also brought difficulties, for example when sending packages, medicines and taking pets with you. Some Protestants felt cut off from Britain and called for changes. These demands were taken into account in the “Windsor framework”.