LONDON - Britain and the European Union have reached an agreement on new trade rules in Northern Ireland in an attempt to resolve a thorny issue that has fueled post-Brexit tensions in Europe and on the island of Ireland. The deal could potentially resolve the issue of imports and border checks in Northern Ireland, one of the most challenging and controversial aspects of the United Kingdom’s split from the EU.
Speaking at a press conference in Windsor, just outside London, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said that the new deal, called the “Windsor Framework,” will deliver “smooth flowing trade” within the UK, that it “protects Northern Ireland’s place” in the UK and “safeguards” the sovereignty of Northern Ireland. European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen acknowledged the tense relations between the UK and EU since Brexit. She said that in order for the two parties to “make the most of our partnership” new solutions were needed. She pointed to the UK and EU’s cooperation on Ukraine and that “we needed to listen to each others concerns very carefully.
Von der Leyen arrived in the UK Monday for final talks with Sunak, ahead of a statement about the deal in the House of Commons. Von der Leyen would also meet with King Charles III for tea at Windsor Castle, Buckingham Palace confirmed. Negotiations intensified in recent weeks, after months of impasse over how to handle checks in Northern Ireland, which is part of the UK but shares a land border with the Republic of Ireland, an EU member state. Now that a deal is done, Sunak faces a political backlash from hardline Euroskeptics in his Conservative Party. Von der Leyen’s meeting with the King has proved controversial.
“The King is pleased to meet any world leader if they are visiting Britain and it is the Government’s advice that he should do so,” the Palace said when it announced the sit-down. According to a royal source, the meeting would be an opportunity for King Charles to discuss topics including the war in Ukraine and climate change. But it was criticized by some prominent unionist figures.