Northern Ireland Protocol: sticking point resolved?
After three years of backing and forthing, the UK and the EU have reached an agreement on the Northern Ireland Protocol. The current rules make trade between Britain and Northern Ireland, which continues to be part of the EU market, more difficult. Under the new agreement, customs regulations will only apply to goods destined for the Republic of Ireland. Reactions in Europe’s press are for the most part positive.
A good compromise
La Stampa praises the key points of the agreement:
“Northern Ireland’s alignment with the customs union will be maintained, but internal barriers will be removed through a two-tier system: goods shipped from Britain to Northern Ireland by established traders will be transported in the green lane without controls; goods destined for the Republic of Ireland and thus for the EU market will be assigned to the red lane and be subject to controls and customs barriers. ... Sunak also appears to have secured a concession regarding the role of the European Court of Justice, which is unpopular with Eurosceptics. The authorities in Belfast will be able to object to the application of rules in Ulster and set in motion a consultation mechanism.”
EU’s influence has not been banished
From the British perspective the problems remain, complains The Daily Telegraph:
“The European Court of Justice, for example, is not just any old court. It is the ultimate guardian of EU law, and has flagrantly used its position to push the Eurocrats’ federalising agenda. Its malign influence has not been banished from Northern Ireland. The Protocol creates problems for the rest of the United Kingdom, too. It acts as an argument against diverging from EU rules, because to do so risks creating an even greater regulatory barrier between two parts of the United Kingdom.”
The British prime minister solves problems instead of perpetuating them, concludes the Neue Zürcher Zeitung:
“For Rishi Sunak, this day could be decisive for his political future. He could have put the Northern Ireland issue on the back burner and avoided direct confrontation with Johnson’s entourage. But instead he decided to tackle the problem, allowing the power struggle that had been smouldering within his party to flare up openly. That takes courage; his life will not get any more pleasant in the party. But he will gain respect among the population, to the extent that they are at all interested in the Northern Ireland issue. That is a resource that the government and the party can make good use of after the escapades of the last year.”
Finally an end to the squabbling
ABC also sees the deal as a success:
“The new pact is flexible enough for Rishi Sunak to save face with the British, even if the hardliners in his party probably won’t be sparing with their criticism. ... On von der Leyen’s part, the concessions put an end to the hostile stance that the EU — cheered on by Macron — adopted vis-à-vis Johnson. This is sensible, because the war in Ukraine has opened up a number of fronts with an uncertain outcome.”
A personal triumph for Sunak
The Windsor Agreement is also a settling of scores with Boris Johnson, says De Volkskrant:
“Britain needed a prime minister who is not afraid of dealing with files, who does not cause trouble in Brussels, who puts the national interest above personal ambition, knows something about economics and is blessed with a large dose of pragmatism. Rishi Sunak has turned out to be such a leader. ... For Sunak, confrontation was not the right approach, if only because the British House of Lords would shoot down any bill that was all too controversial. As a technocrat, he decided to take a pragmatic approach to this problem. Now there’s a deal that Johnson would have signed immediately, even if getting him to admit it wouldn’t be so easy.”