Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen have agreed a new post-Brexit deal for Northern Ireland, dubbed the Windsor Framework.
It aims to address issues that have affected Northern Ireland since the UK left the EU – and the so-called Northern Ireland Protocol.
But what does he do new agreement entail?
This is an early look at what was announced by Mr. Sunak – we will provide more once the full framework is released.
The deal will introduce two new freight routes from the UK to Northern Ireland.
Products that travel through NI to enter the Republic of Ireland – which is within the EU – will pass a red belt, ensuring they pass all required customs checks before crossing the Irish Sea.
But products expected to remain in NI – and therefore the UK – will go through the green belt, which Sunak said will lead to the dismantling of the current “burdensome customs bureaucracy”, such as no more paperwork.
The Prime Minister also said it would benefit people sending packages to friends and family in the UK, or buying products online, as there would be no need for customs paperwork.
He has promised that food available on UK supermarket shelves will also be available in Northern Ireland.
Mr Sunak said: “It means we have removed any sense of a border in the Irish Sea.”
Taxes and medicines
The next step is something that Mr Sunak says protects Northern Ireland’s place in the UK.
The legal text of the protocol has been changed so that the UK Government’s VAT and Excise Decision is also implemented in Northern Ireland.
Under the previous Brexit deal, these decisions were made in Brussels, as the region had to respect the rules of the single market.
But now any changes to Westminster will come into force in Northern Ireland, with the prime minister using the example of the alcohol excise duty, “meaning our reforms to reduce the cost of beer in the pub will now apply in Northern Ireland”.
He said British produce such as trees, plants and seed potatoes would be available again in Northern Ireland’s garden centres.
A ‘landmark’ drug settlement has been agreed, meaning medicines approved for use by the UK’s medicines regulator will be automatically available from every pharmacy and hospital in Northern Ireland.
The good news for pet owners is that they can now travel without vet documentation.
Perhaps the most politically significant element of the framework is this proposal, which Mr Sunak says “secures the sovereignty of the people of Northern Ireland”.
trade unionists, like DUPthey oppose any EU laws that must be respected in Northern Ireland as they are not influenced by members of the Assembly.
But to avoid the return of a hard border to the island of Ireland, others say some of the bloc’s laws will have to be followed in the future.
Mr Sunak told reporters that some rules would remain, adding: “The only EU law that applies in Northern Ireland under this framework is the minimum necessary to avoid a hard border with Ireland and allow Northern Irish businesses to continue to access the EU market.”
However, what the prime minister has agreed with the EU is to give members of the Northern Ireland Assembly a say in any changes to EU law by offering them a ‘Stormont brake’.
Mr Sunak said if the brake is pulled by politicians in NI, “the UK government will have a veto” on any changes to the law by the bloc that affects them.
“This gives the institutions of the Good Friday Agreement in Northern Ireland a powerful new safeguard based on cross-community consensus,” he added.
The details of how it works could make the prime minister win the support of DUP members and Brexiteers from his own party.