Thank you to all those who contacted me regarding the Windsor Framework.
On 27 February 2023, the Prime Minister gave a statement to the House of Commons on an agreement he has negotiated with the European Union to reform the Northern Ireland Protocol. Under this agreement, which the Government has called the Windsor Framework, most goods going from Great Britain to Northern Ireland will no longer need customs and regulatory checks so long as they are certified as not intended for the EU market.
In his statement, the Prime Minister also confirmed that the Northern Ireland Protocol Bill would now not be taken forward. This Bill would have unilaterally sought to disapply the UK’s obligations under the Protocol as it was initially drafted. I welcome that announcement. Unilateral action of the kind envisaged in the Protocol Bill was never the right way forward, not least because it breached the UK’s commitments under international law.
I broadly welcome the progress represented by the Windsor Framework, which is a vindication of the approach that the Opposition has long supported. Since the United Kingdom left the European Union in 2020, the Opposition has called on Ministers to show responsibility to the people of Northern Ireland, be honest about the consequences of the Brexit deal that Boris Johnson negotiated, and work together with the EU to make changes for the better.
As the Leader of the Opposition pointed out in his response to the Prime Minister, Boris Johnson “told the people of Northern Ireland that his protocol meant no forms, no checks, no barriers of any kind on goods crossing the Irish sea after Brexit. That was absolute nonsense. It was a point-blank refusal to engage with Unionists in Northern Ireland in good faith, let alone take their concerns seriously, and it inevitably contributed to the collapse of power sharing in Northern Ireland.”
If the Windsor Framework is debated by MPs, I therefore intend to vote for it as an improvement on the status quo. More widely, I hope that this agreement will provide the basis for the restoration of devolved government in Northern Ireland, that it will allow us to move forward as a country, and that it will bring an end to damaging disputes with our allies in the EU.