Prime Minister has passed the first and biggest Commons test for his Windsor Framework (WF), aimed at resolving the dispute with the EU.
A vote of the so-called Stormont Brake was carried by 515 votes to 29 but exposed deep divisions within the Conservative party, with 22 voting against and 48 abstaining or absenting themselves. Three former leaders – Liz Truss, Boris Johnson and Sir Iain Duncan Smith were among those voting against.
The DUP voted against and are reported to have no intention of taking up power-sharing at Stormont. But a poll for The Irish News finds that only 17% of Northern Ireland voters oppose the WF. Even among DUP voters just 23% are opposed against 36% in favour and the rest neither for nor opposed. Overall, 45% are in favour and 38% neither support nor oppose the WF.
The framework envisages Red lanes for goods that may be going into the EU and Green lanes for those that are staying in Northern Ireland, with much less onerous requirements for Green lane goods.
Stephen Kelly, of Manufacturing NI, said last month that it “goes much, much further” than many had expected but that some sectors could be disappointed when the full legal texts were deciphered.
This week, Belfast’s The News Letter quoted a diesel generator manufacturer based in Lurgan, AJ Power, saying that the WF may not benefit the firm. It is not clear that British component suppliers will be able to use the Green Lane because there was no certainty finished products won’t go to Ireland. AJ Power also identified concerns over Customs duty divergence.
Earlier this month, the CBI’s President’s Council and Northern Ireland Council issued an open letter congratulating the prime minister on the WF, which they said was “historic”. It is widely hoped that, when Parliament fully approves the WF, the UK will start to have what one commentator called a “grown up relationship” with the EU.
Nigel Farage expressed himself in a way that will resonate in Northern Ireland: “The Conservatives were always a party of surrender.” Farage also said that “Brexit has now been squandered, our future is decline”. (Source: Financial Times.)
The FT quotes Sunak allies as shrugging off the vote and saying – with a clearly sarcastic reference to Boris Johnson’s slogan as PM – that the vote on the WF “got Brexit done”.
We welcome comment and queries about the Windsor Framework.
Newly-published explainers on the Windsor Framework:
UK in a Changing Europe: Regulatory divergence and the Windsor Framework – UK in a changing Europe (ukandeu.ac.uk)
House of Commons Library: CBP-9736.pdf (parliament.uk)