The Government will always work in the best interests of the people of Northern Ireland and it was clear changes were necessary to fix parts of the Northern Ireland Protocol, which is why I welcome the Windsor Framework, to restore stability and ensure the delicate balance of the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement is protected. I am also pleased that the House of Commons has now voted to approve the Stormont Brake.
The Windsor Framework is a reasonable and practical solution to these problems and it will restore the balance of the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement by fundamentally recasting arrangements in three key areas: restoring the smooth flow of trade within the UK internal market by removing the burdens that have disrupted East-West trade; safeguarding Northern Ireland's place in the Union by addressing practical problems affecting the availability of goods and medicines from Great Britain, and the ability of Northern Ireland to benefit from UK-wide tax and spend policies; and addressing the democratic deficit with the Stormont break, allowing the devolved Government to raise concerns about EU law and giving the UK Government the ability to veto its implementation.
This Framework will end the untenable situation where people in Northern Ireland are treated differently to the rest of the United Kingdom, and protect the supremacy of our courts and our territorial integrity. It will also safeguard and protect the free flow of North-South trade, ensuring there continues to be no hard border on the island of Ireland.
The UK has engaged in over three years of negotiations with the EU on these issues and I am glad the UK and EU have concluded a deal under the Windsor Framework, marking a pivotal moment in UK-EU relations.
It is the duty of the Government of the United Kingdom to take the necessary steps to preserve stability and prosperity in Northern Ireland, and the Windsor Framework will support that and importantly deliver for the people of Northern Ireland. I will be sure to follow developments closely.
The UK has set out the instruments of the Windsor Framework and this will be approved at the next meeting of the UK-EU Joint Committee, which is expected to take place in March. After that, the UK and EU will respectively take forward legislative measures to translate the solutions into law in both legal orders, providing the basis for these new arrangements to enter into force.
The UK and the EU are both firmly committed to a positive, constructive relationship as partners. It is in both our interests to resolve and move past concerns with the Protocol, to focus instead on our shared priorities in Europe and on the global stage. The Government will, therefore, not be proceeding with the Northern Ireland Protocol Bill. In turn, the EU will not proceed with the seven separate legal actions it has launched against the UK.
The Stormont Brake restores sovereignty by giving the UK a hard-edged veto over new EU laws, preventing new EU rules being imposed on Northern Ireland without cross-community consent. The brake is completely outside the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice and ends the prospect of dynamic alignment without the consent of Northern Ireland. The break also uses the same mechanism as the 'petition of concern' established in the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement to ensure cross-community consensus.
The Stormont Brake is an "emergency" mechanism, which should only be used as a last resort. To trigger the Stormont Brake, it would require over 30 MLAs from at least two different parties, who will also need to demonstrate that they have met a number of conditions, including that other routes to resolution have been sought and that the content or scope of change to the EU law significantly differs from the original rule, and will significantly impact the everyday lives of communities in Northern Ireland. The UK will then explain this reasoning to the EU and the EU act will be suspended. The UK-EU Joint Committee will then discuss the act in question.
The framework removes over 1700 pages of EU law governing Northern Ireland. Less than three per cent of EU law will still apply for the purpose of avoiding a hard border and protecting the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement.
The former Prime Minister introduced the Northern Ireland Protocol Bill because of concerns about problems with the Protocol. The preference for Government has always been to fix the problems with the Protocol by negotiation and that is what we have done. This was the view of the last three Prime Ministers. The Windsor Framework goes further than the July 2021 Command Paper and Protocol Bill in crucial areas and restores the delicate balance inherent in the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement and delivers for the people of Northern Ireland.
The EU have explicitly accepted in the Political Declaration that the Treaty is subject to the Vienna Convention, meaning the legal basis for the Windsor Agreement is in international law.
I was elected on a manifesto to get Brexit done; the Windsor Framework ensures that this Government can deliver a Brexit that works for all devolved nations of the United Kingdom. Northern Ireland is in a unique position, as the only part of the United Kingdom to share a land border with the EU. To protect and honour the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement, a hard border must be avoided between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. To this end, the Windsor Framework avoids a hard border whist delivering free flowing trade across the UK, removing the border in the Irish Sea between Northern Ireland and Great Britain, safeguards Northern Ireland's place in our Union and restores sovereignty for the people of Northern Ireland.