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Lisburn (United Kingdom) (AFP) – The British Prime Minister traveled to Belfast to try to obtain the support of local political forces for the commercial pact announced together with the president of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen. In Sunak’s words, this agreement seeks to favor trade in the province, although his plan has yet to convince the unionists.
It’s “a fabulous deal that responds to everything that counts for people,” Rishi Sunak said while visiting a Coca-Cola factory near Belfast, the provincial capital.
According to him, the new commitment will create “the most exciting economic zone in the world”, with access to the British and European Union (EU) markets. “Nobody else has that, just you,” he emphasized.
Sunak and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen on Monday billed the new deal as a “historic” milestone in Northern Ireland, a British province bordering the EU member Republic of Ireland.
The new agreement, called the “Windsor framework”, updates the so-called Northern Irish protocol negotiated in 2020 by the then Prime Minister Boris Johnson, on the occasion of the United Kingdom’s departure from the European Union.
That protocol kept Northern Ireland within the single European market for goods and merchandise, with the aim of avoiding a “hard” land border with the neighboring Republic of Ireland.
The main problem was that it imposed customs controls on products from the rest of the UK. Under the new commitment, only goods capable of being exported to the Republic of Ireland will be subject to controls.
For products destined only for Northern Ireland there will be free shipping.
In very concrete terms, this will mean that British frozen meat will be able to be sold in Northern Irish supermarkets, that the English will be able to send parcels to relatives in Belfast without making a customs declaration or travel to the province with their dog without the need for a veterinary certificate. .
The agreement with the EU was closed a few weeks after the 25th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreements, which put an end to a three-decade armed conflict – with a balance of 3,500 deaths – between unionists, supporters of remaining in the United Kingdom, and the republicans, supporters of the accession of the province to the Republic of Ireland.
The pact was hailed as an “essential stage” for peace by US President Joe Biden, and enthusiastically received by Paris, Berlin, Dublin and British business circles.
Convince the unionists
The British Government maintains that the agreement, negotiated hard with the EU, will make it possible to boost commercial exchanges with the province of Northern Ireland.
Sunak now has the challenge of convincing the right wing of his Conservative Party, and also the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), which is opposed to any move that calls into question Northern Ireland’s membership of the UK.
The unionists have blocked local government for a year, under the demand that the protocol that imposed a de facto border in the Irish Sea be abandoned, and they refuse the de facto application of EU law in Northern Ireland .
One of the possible stumbling blocks is precisely the role that the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) maintains in the administration of the new trade agreement.
Ian Paisley, a DUP MP, said the new deal was “not up to scratch”.
“It is totally understandable that they (the unionists) want to examine the details of the project,” the British Foreign Minister, James Cleverly, reacted to ‘Sky News’.
However, if the DUP unionists do not agree to reactivate local Northern Irish institutions with the Republican party Sinn Fein, “it will be extremely disappointing,” said the minister.