After a two-year political deadlock that left Northern Ireland without a functioning government, the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) has agreed to a deal that will see power sharing restored at Stormont.
The DUP, Northern Ireland’s largest unionist party, said it will end its boycott of the devolved government and nominate ministers to serve alongside rival nationalist party Sinn Fein.
Main Points of The Deal
The deal aims to resolve issues around the Northern Ireland Protocol, part of the Brexit withdrawal agreement that has proven deeply unpopular with unionists due to the economic barriers it created between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK.
Key points include:
- The creation of a “green lane” to facilitate flow of goods from Great Britain to Northern Ireland. This separate lane with much less checks will ease trade friction.
- Giving Northern Ireland politicians an emergency brake to stop any new EU goods rules they disagree with from automatically applying to the region. This “Stormont Brake” hands more control of NI trade rules to local leaders.
- Cutting bureaucracy by streamlining export health certification and other border processes. This will make it simpler for NI businesses to transport goods.
- Providing VAT incentives and more financial assistance to Northern Irish traders impacted by Brexit requirements.
|Solution in Deal
|Green lane to reduce checks on GB-NI movements + Stormont veto power over new EU rules
|Simplified processes for moving goods like single export health certificates
|Brexit Economic Impact
|More UK government funding to support NI traders + VAT incentives
DUP leader Jeffrey Donaldson said that while the deal does not fix every Brexit-related matter around the protocol, it provides “stable foundations” for a restored government that can further build on progress in the future.
The new arrangements will be reviewed in two years.
Return to Power Sharing After Two Year Impasse
The DUP pullout from power sharing began in February 2022 in protest over the Northern Ireland Protocol’s creation of an economic border in the Irish Sea.
This triggered the collapse of the region’s cross-community executive and left Northern Ireland without a functioning administration for nearly two years. The UK government had to step in to keep public services running during this time.
Successive talks between the UK and EU alongside negotiations between local parties failed to achieve a breakthrough – until now.
Power sharing is central to governance in Northern Ireland under the 1998 Good Friday peace agreement that ended decades of violent conflict over the constitutional status of the region.
The deal requires unionists and nationalists to share power in the devolved government, with the first minister and deputy first minister positions rotating between the largest party from each community.
What Comes Next – Return Of Devolved Government
The publication of the deal on Wednesday means power sharing can now return almost immediately to Northern Ireland.
The DUP and Sinn Fein must renominate a first minister and deputy first minister within seven days. The Northern Ireland Assembly will then meet to appoint the new ministers.
After that, the full Northern Ireland Executive will be restored with ministers from the DUP, Sinn Fein and other parties taking up their cabinet positions to govern devolved matters.
This will end the limbo Northern Ireland has been in without its own regional decision-making authority, ensuring locally accountable leadership to tackle important issues impacting communities.
The deal has significance extending beyond just the return of devolution in Northern Ireland.
Advance For Brexit Britain
It represents a diplomatic achievement for Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s government in altering part of the Brexit agreement – something past UK attempts floundered to deliver.
Sunak expressed hopes it can foster better relations between Britain and the EU after years of tensions over Northern Ireland trade rules.
Pressure On Sinn Fein Towards United Ireland
Hardline critics of the deal within the DUP have argued party leader Jeffrey Donaldson conceded too much ground to nationalists.
They claim the arrangements open the path towards a united Ireland – long the ultimate goal of Irish republicans.
As part of the deal, the Northern Ireland Assembly will debate holding a referendum on reunification. While non-binding, this could increase pressure on Sinn Fein to push for a border poll.
Unionist Unease Over Irish Language
The deal also contains commitments around an Irish language act that have alarmed some unionists.
Controversial DUP MP Sammy Wilson said nationalist demands for more accommodation of Irish speakers would further undermine British identity in Northern Ireland under the restored government.
What They Said
Reactions poured in from major figures across Britain, Ireland and Northern Ireland as news broke of the deal to reboot Stormont after two years.
DUP leader Jeffrey Donaldson:
> “We now have a firm foundation to build a fully functioning devolved government bringing much needed stability at this time.”
Sinn Féin leader Michelle O’Neill:
> “This is a time for positive politics & working together to make politics work.”
Irish Taoiseach Micheál Martin:
> I welcome the announcement this evening by the British and Irish governments, and the Northern Ireland parties. This is a very welcome development.
UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak:
> “I am pleased the parties in Northern Ireland have come together to agree a way forward and stable governance can now be restored.”
Overall the deal has brought relief that devolution and regional decision making can return in Northern Ireland after years without a working administration.
But debate over the wider political implications for Northern Ireland’s status in the UK has only just begun.
To err is human, but AI does it too. Whilst factual data is used in the production of these articles, the content is written entirely by AI. Double check any facts you intend to rely on with another source.