The Windsor Framework and the Northern Ireland Protocol and why they are important for peace on the island of Ireland

Harbour in Larne, Northern Ireland

Harbour in Larne, Northern Ireland, © PA Wire / picture alliance

01.08.2023 - Article

The Windsor Framework ends the discussions between the EU and the United Kingdom on the Northern Ireland Protocol. It regulates trade across the Irish Sea and prevents a hard border on the island of Ireland. Find out more about what exactly has been agreed.

On 27 February 2023, the European Commission and the United Kingdom agreed on the Windsor Framework, the United Kingdom having not fully implemented the Northern Ireland Protocol agreed in the Brexit process. All key elements of the Windsor Framework have now been adopted following consultation with the Council of the EU and the European Parliament. The Windsor Framework will now be implemented gradually up to 2025.

The Northern Ireland Protocol as a stability factor for the island of Ireland

Harbour in Belfast 
Harbour in Belfast© PA Wire / picture alliance

The Northern Ireland Protocol attached to the Withdrawal Agreement is a key component of the contractual agreement concluded by the EU and the United Kingdom in February 2020 to implement Brexit, the UK’s withdrawal from the EU. The Northern Ireland Protocol is the document the two sides together agreed on to comply with the wish of the United Kingdom to withdraw from the EU internal market and customs union on the one hand and to guarantee the EU internal market remains protected on the other – what is more, without a hard border between Northern Ireland and the EU member state Ireland. The open border between Northern Ireland and Ireland was key to the success of the Good Friday (Belfast) Agreement that brought an end to the Northern Ireland conflict in 1998.

With this very much in mind, the Northern Ireland Protocol grants Northern Ireland special status and ensures it remains in the EU internal market for goods. Goods arriving in Northern Ireland from Great Britain are subject to checks to ensure they comply with EU standards before entering the country.

The Windsor Framework brings greater flexibility

The Windsor Framework enhances the flexibility of the Northern Ireland Protocol in certain areas, without altering its substance. The central element is a new differentiation for goods arriving in Northern Ireland from Great Britain. Customs facilities will apply to goods destined to remain in Northern Ireland and not be moved to the EU single market („goods not at risk“). „Goods at risk“ are goods entering the EU single market; the usual controls based on EU standards will continue to apply to these. Another new element is the Stormont Brake mechanism, which enables the Northern Ireland Assembly in certain circumstances to stop amended EU law from applying in Northern Ireland. The regulations on VAT and consumption taxes, on the protection of foodstuffs, animals and plants and on pharmaceuticals have also been adapted.


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