British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak reached an agreement with the European Union (EU) on Monday (Feb. 27) on a new Brexit deal that defines the trade status of Northern Ireland. Dubbed the Windsor Framework, the deal will allow Northern Ireland to keep its border with Ireland with some customs controls, as well as remain closer to Europe’s single market than the rest of mainland UK.
Sunak has promised to let UK lawmakers vote on the agreement, despite not being constitutionally required to do so. It is expected to pass given that the opposition Labour Party has said it will support the agreement, but will certainly meet vocal opposition from pro-Brexit MPs.
The bill is a major breakthrough for Sunak’s government, which had been dealing with simmering tension in Northern Ireland throughout his short tenure as prime minister. However, pushback from more conservative members of his own party, as well as the Democratic Unionist Party in Northern Ireland, is likely, with pro-Brexit commentators accusing Sunak of allowing continued EU control in the UK.
While the agreement is considered a compromise between the EU, UK, and Northern Ireland’s regional politicians, the deal will likely not satisfy either of the main political parties in Northern Ireland.
It has been met with skepticism by Sinn Fein, the region’s biggest party, which advocates for reunification with Ireland and opposes any borders between the two countries. It has also been received with vocal protests by the Democratic Unionist Party, a militantly pro-British party, which claims it alienates Northern Ireland from the UK.
US president Joe Biden personally reached out to Sunak, encouraging him to get a deal done so that the restriction wouldn’t jeopardize the Good Friday Agreement, the 1998 treaty that ended three decades of violence in Northern Ireland.
An open border between Northern Ireland and Ireland was considered the cornerstone of the deal. Keeping free and open travel across the border is considered essential for preventing further tension.
The 25th anniversary of the peace treaty will be celebrated this April, with Biden expected to make a trip to his ancestral homeland in order to mark the occasion.
5: The number of prime ministers the UK has had since the original Brexit vote six years ago. All of them have been members of the Conservative Party.
45%: The percentage of Britons who think the UK’s exit from the EU is going worse than they had originally expected.
3: The number of constituencies in the United Kingdom—out of 632—that still have a favorable opinion of Brexit.