The United Kingdom formally ceased to be a member state of the European Union on 31 January 2020, with a transition period until the end of 2020. 

But three years after the entry into force of the UK Withdrawal Agreement, it still hasn’t been fully implemented.

During its March plenary session, the European Parliament is debating an implementation report on the agreement on the withdrawal of the UK from the EU and the European Commission will present a statement on the Windsor Framework.

It sounds as complicated as it is. In short, the report mentions that Brexit has proven to be damaging for all concerned, and even more so for the UK. But let’s take it step by step to understand what all these means in practice.


The Windsor Framework

Before Brexit, trade between the north of  Ireland and the rest of Ireland was easy because both were in the EU and had the same rules.

When the north was dragged out of the EU, a deal was required to prevent checks being introduced. The land border became an extremely sensitive issue because of the north’s troubled political history. 

In an effort to address the consequences of Brexit on this, former UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson agreed the Ireland Protocol with the EU. It came into force on 1 January 2021. 

However, the Protocol meant border checks between the north of Ireland and Britain and the British government then sought to change the agreement. 

On 27 February 2023, Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak announced a new deal, aiming to resolve the issue.

The new agreement, called the Windsor Framework, builds on the Protocol and simplifies several procedures on medicines, customs, pets, and VAT.

This week MEPs discussed the impact of the UK withdrawal and the new measures agreed, particularly on citizens’ rights. The Withdrawal Agreement provided for EU citizens living in Britain and British citizens living in the EU to maintain many of the rights they held before Britain left the EU. These include the right to reside, work or access health care. 

However, there have been some problems for EU citizens in Britain who face potentially losing all their rights if they haven’t lived in Britain for five consecutive years and they don’t resubmit all the paperwork on completion of this period. 

The European Parliament report voted this week demands that the British government and all EU member states respect their commitments.

For The Left, the priority in any talks around the impact of Brexit, must be to ensure that there is no hard border on the island of Ireland and to protect the Good Friday peace agreement agreed in 1998. 

The British government must live up to its commitments. We have some reservations about the Windsor framework and feel it creates additional ongoing problems. For example, it provides an additional mechanism for a minority to disrupt the implementation of the Protocol – the Stormont Brake. The Stormont Brake is a mechanism that gives the assembly in Belfast the power to object to changes to EU rules that apply in the north of Ireland. The Windsor framework also permits the British government to create an argument about the consent mechanism – the majority vote in the Belfast Assembly every four years – required to continue the operation of the Protocol. 

However, we accept the Windsor framework moves us all forward from the blockage caused by the intransigence of the British regime.

We hope that this provides the basis for moving ahead on cooperation in other areas, such as the HORIZON Programme, possibly the ERASMUS Programme, and visas for touring artists.

We support the report which lays down principles by which the European Parliament will measure the implementation of the Withdrawal Agreement as a whole.


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Our support for the Irish Protocol and Peace Process

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Obstruction of Irish protocol by Tories & DUP threatens Good Friday Agreement