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.

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Dagens Nyheter (SE) /

A step away from isolationism

The new framework marks a turning point after the long Brexit stalemate, says Dagens Nyheter:

“Good relations are also in the EU’s economic interest. Moreover, apart from France, Britain is still the only real military power in Europe. Russia's brutal war against Ukraine has made clear how much security policy depends on Nato's cohesion, and the British are an indispensable part of that. Monday night's agreement marks a turning point. Previously, the British had moved further and further away from Europe. Now closer relations are possible once more.”

Financial Times (GB) /

DUP should relent

The Democratic Unionist Party's reluctance to back the Windsor Agreement is typical, The Financial Times sighs:

“Its approach has always been that of a doubting Thomas, wanting to check and double check the detail of any agreement to see if it is being cheated. They shouldn't get lost in the weeds, however. ... What the new framework does not do, and could never do, is remove the border altogether. There has to be a border somewhere, and the unionists have no alternative suggestion of where it should be. They would be wise therefore to accept this agreement.”

De Standaard (BE) /

A gift from Brussels

The deal is the result of pragmatism not only on Rishi Sunak's part, De Standaard stresses:

“He wants to build bridges and seek solutions. And in this regard the EU has met him halfway. European leaders now also realise that there are bigger things to worry about than a potential hole in the single market. The agreement was made against the backdrop of the war in Ukraine, a conflict in which the British are leading the way in terms of military aid. That is appreciated in Europe. ... The EU has now given Sunak a deal with which he can shut Johnson up. Even hard Brexiteers in the party have to acknowledge that this agreement goes further than they ever dared dream.”

Večernji list (HR) /

Absurdity of Brexit exposed

Večernji list mocks the way the British prime minister is hailing the plan as a major triumph:

“The absurdity of Brexit was highlighted once again when Prime Minister Sunak mentioned as the strongest argument for the new agreement that Northern Ireland will be in an 'unbelievably special position' as it will have 'privileged access, not just to the UK home market but also the European Union single market'. The absurd thing is that the whole of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland was in this 'incredibly special position' until the moment the Conservative Party, of which Sunak is a member, launched the referendum and followed through with Brexit.”

La Stampa (IT) /

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.”

The Daily Telegraph (GB) /

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.”

Neue Zürcher Zeitung (CH) /

Courageous pragmatism

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.”

ABC (ES) /

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.”

De Volkskrant (NL) /

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.”