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Sunak Strikes a Deal

The Northern Ireland puzzle may have been put to rest momentarily with the Windsor Framework. Here's a look at what's at stake as news of the new deal breaks.

Photo by Samuel Pollard / Unsplash

The past week was tough for Rishi Sunak. The whole host of British Prime Ministers who came before him — and after David Cameron — have struggled to keep up with the demands of a post-Brexit state. From viewing this phenomenon as a simple on-paper battle to watching it unfold across Britain, the political reception of Brexit has been quite murky. Of the many issues that it brought on, the case of Northern Ireland was particularly concerning amidst ripe calls for balkanization. It is, after all, easy for all dominoes to fall at once. But, the hanging fate might just be on the verge of a safe jump.

There is News — But is it Good?

The voting is yet to happen. The deal is yet to be ‘sealed’ in its truest sense. Yet, the Brits can be enthusiastic about keeping some hope alive for themselves and a chance at stability. Ursula von der Leyen is set to meet Charles III in a move that will be looked at skeptically — but is no less than a confirmation. This choice to visit an apolitical member of the British state is drawing irk from those in Northern Ireland. Arlene Foster said, “It’s crass and will go down very badly in NI”. The DUP’s leader, Jeffrey Donaldson, however, has refrained from commenting until he gets the chance to go through the legal text of the Windsor Framework.

On the face of it, the deal is all good for the economic pursuits of either side of the Irish line. But, the domestic political scenario may still need a better resolution. While Sunak and von der Leyen can rejoice about finding “long-lasting solutions” for Northern Ireland and the EU’s “Single Market”, the British government would still have work to do. It would, ultimately, depend on Sunak’s determination to “get the job done.”

Keeping the Protocol

The Northern Ireland Protocol was originally devised during Boris Johnson’s term. This placed Northern Ireland within the single market which, in essence, created a sea border for trade. The movement of goods between Northern Ireland and the UK was highly regulated — the controls and border checks continued to be plenty.

The UK had been advocating for two separate pathways to allow the movement of goods — the green lane for those moving into Northern Ireland, and the red for those being sent to Ireland. So, the protocol wasn’t a happy picture for either side at the time. The British Conservative Party itself had internal contentions about this idea. Even now, Sunak’s true test of confidence would be on display when he appears in Parliament. Whether there would be conservatives dissenting or not is a matter of great importance.

When it comes to securing a spot in the EU’s good books, Sunak is winning the race because he’s not as huge a hardliner as those who came before him were. He will also stop receiving warnings from the US if this deal manages to stick. This might be a good Easter offering — in good tiding. But this hangs by a narrow thread. Boris Johnson has been eyeing all talks about the deal; so has the ERG. If these two factions don’t find Sunak’s cause convincing, he stands the risk of a fall that may be detrimental to his own political ambition. The UK’s biggest disrupter, at the moment, is the in-party clashes.

This is a tightrope walk for Rishi Sunak. But it’s his game to lose or win. Where he gains support and gets snubbed will be the key to evaluating the Windsor Framework — or any of its revisions that thereby arrive.



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