Warm words today in the announcement of the new “Windsor Framework”. Sunak praised the vision of Ursula von der Leyen for its “significant changes”. The PM said “if it is available on the shelves of Britain it will be available in Northern Ireland”.
VAT rules will automatically align. Onerous requirements on pet travel are dropped. Drugs approved for use in UK will be available for every pharmacy in NI. There will be a new Stormont Brake on changes to EU rules that have significant effects.
What’s not been mentioned is the nature of the compromises that have been made to effectively make the Irish Sea border go away, because there is an implicit agreement that there may be limited scope for change in the other direction too.
Von der Leyen made scant mention of the sort of agreements that will allow both the UK and the EU to make joint decisions using the same data. The DUP will not be committing itself immediately and it’ll be joined in examining the detail by its rivals.
Would any of this have happened if the DUP not stuck its hand in the socket and reversed its initial welcome to join the protests to its right (and to some extent those garden centre unionists who could no longer buy plants from Scotland and England)?
Whilst I’m not sure it really needed a Stormont blockade, both nationalist parties and even the Alliance party played down the significance of the disruption to inward goods on what was barely anything other than a key consumer trade border.
Asked by RTÉ where all this left the European Court of Justice, both seemed to quietly ignore the question. There will be a second (and possibly three) chapter to this. The local ball will now pass to the DUP, UUP and other unionist interests.
But the real interest in Britain will shift towards the ERG and in particular Minister of State at the NIO, Steve Baker.
Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty