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Thursday 8 June 2023 Dublin: 10°C
# Progress
Varadkar says Windsor Agreement reached as Sunak built trust and Europe made concessions
Varadkar said negotiations were kept confidential which helped the deal getting done today.

LAST UPDATE | Feb 27th 2023, 7:45 PM

TAOISEACH LEO VARADKAR has said today’s Windsor Framework was reached today as trust had been built upon and Europe made concessions. 

When asked by reporters at Government Building this evening how UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s approach to the negotiations made a difference in reaching a deal, Varadkar said “a lot of trust has been built up between the [European] Commission and Prime Minister Sunak and his team”.

Varadkar said the fact that things this time around were done “very quietly behind the scenes” and that negotiations were “kept confidential” has resulted in a deal being done. 

“It was done in a way that I think builds confidence and builds trust,” he added. 

He said the sharing of data also played a role, reiterating the importance of having Britain as a strong security partner.

“There was more willingness on the European side to make concessions as well,” said Varadkar. 

DUP support

The Taoiseach also said he hopes the DUP will be “able to give their full support” to the Windsor Framework after they have had time to carefully review of the agreement. 

Speaking to reporters outside Government Buildings this evening, he said hopes it will lead to an early restoration of the Assembly and Executive in Northern Ireland. 

“I firmly believe that people in Northern Ireland do not want to return to divisions of the past. They want to make progress together. A shared future.

“Like people everywhere, they want political institutions to sort out the issues that matter in their daily lives – healthcare, the cost of living, housing, the economy.

“The agreement also paves the way for new and more positive relations between the UK and the EU and between the UK and Ireland,” he said. 

Varadkar said it is “time of great trouble in the world”.

“We need to be partners and friends. There is so much more that unites us than divides us. We who have so much in common, so many shared interests and values, should be working together on the great challenges of our age – the war in Ukraine, inflation, climate action, defending democracy,” he added.

“This agreement also helps to restore and strengthen relations between Ireland and Great Britain,” said Varadkar. 

Following the announcement by UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen at a press conference this afternoon, DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson said that “significant progress” has been made, but that “there remain key issues of concern”.

“There can be no disguising the fact that in some sectors of our economy EU law remains applicable in Northern Ireland,” a DUP statement said.

The party is now going to assess the proposed outcomes and arrangements against its ‘seven tests’ to see if it passes them and “restores Northern Ireland’s place within the United Kingdom”.

The party added in its statement:

“Our judgement and our principled position in opposing the Protocol in Parliament and at Stormont has been vindicated. Undoubtedly it is now recognised that the Protocol does not work. When others said there would be no re-negotiation and no change our determination has proved what can be achieved.”

Speaking to Sky News, Donaldson said that the DUP would not be “rushed” into a “hasty decision”. He added that a key question would be determining which EU laws apply, in what circumstances do they apply, and why do they apply.

brexit PA Taoiseach Leo Varadkar before speaking to the media at Government Buildings in Dublin. PA

When asked what might happen if the DUP do not agree to the framework, Varadkar said he didn’t want to speculate on that.

He said it is important to hear the view of the DUP and other parties in Northern Ireland, as well as the business community.

Ultimately, he said it is an agreement between the EU including Ireland on the one hand, and the UK Government on the other, and would not go into whether the agreement could be reopened if there is disagreement.

“What I can say with confidence is that agreement was hard won and took a huge amount of work on both sides to get to this point,” he said, adding that it is something that would be very hard to reopen.

Varadkar said he is “always hopeful” that the Executive and Assembly could be up and running soon.

Good Friday Agreement anniversary 

When asked if he thought they could be restored in time for the 25th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement in April and if this might pave the way for a visit from US President Joe Biden, as has been widely speculated, Varadkar said: 

“The Good Friday Agreement anniversary is an anniversary work marking no matter what happens – 25 years of peace in our island is a wonderful thing.

“And I think we need to mark that and celebrate that whether or not the Assembly or Executive is formed by then. And of course, President Biden is welcome in Ireland at anytime, whether it’s on that occasion or later in the year.”

The Minister of State for European Affairs, Peter Burke TD, also welcomed the news, describing it as “very positive that both sides have listened and followed through on their commitments to reach sustainable joint solutions for people and businesses in Northern Ireland”.

He said the framework “addresses the real-life concerns raised in Northern Ireland about the movement of goods”. 

“I believe we now have a real opportunity for us all to move into a new and more positive phase of EU-UK relations, and to face into global challenges as partners,” he added. 

Ibec said the framework will be welcomed by businesses across the all-island economy. Ibec CEO Danny McCoy said: “As economic challenges continue to impact business sentiment, today’s announcement will bring much needed certainty for businesses across the all-island economy. It must now be supported through close collaboration between business and government in Northern Ireland, Ireland, Britain and the European Union.

“The island of Ireland faces several economic headwinds but is positioned to successfully navigate them, and today’s announcement will further help this,” he said. 

With reporting by Christina Finn

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