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Northern Ireland to get new Brexit trade rules in deal to restore power sharing

The UK government has introduced new trade regulations between Great Britain and Northern Ireland as part of an agreement with the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP).

This deal aims to reinstate the Stormont executive and appoint a Sinn Féin first minister. The new measures, outlined in a command paper titled "Safeguarding the Union," are designed to alleviate DUP concerns about Northern Ireland's status in the UK and to conclude a two-year boycott of power sharing that has caused instability in the region.

These changes will eliminate routine checks on goods from Great Britain destined to remain in Northern Ireland, replacing them with a "UK internal market system" for goods within the UK.

The government has also committed to modifying domestic laws so that new EU laws will not automatically apply in Northern Ireland, requiring democratic oversight by the Stormont assembly. The 76-page document includes legislative actions to be expedited through Westminster, reaffirming Northern Ireland's constitutional position in the UK.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak expressed optimism in the Commons, stating that the proposals would resolve Northern Ireland's impasse and strengthen the union. Ireland's Foreign Minister, Micheál Martin, described the proposals as "sensible," anticipating no significant objections from the EU.

However, some Conservative Brexit supporters, including MPs Bill Cash and Theresa Villiers, raised concerns about the UK's ability to diverge from EU laws under the agreement.

Northern Ireland Secretary Chris Heaton-Harris assured that the new plan would not hinder the government's capacity to deviate from EU legislation.

Michelle O’Neill of Sinn Féin is poised to become the first nationalist first minister in Stormont's history. The DUP leader, Jeffrey Donaldson, praised the agreement for restoring Northern Ireland's position in the UK and its internal market, crediting Prime Minister Sunak for the amendments.

Labour has indicated support for the plan, with Shadow Northern Ireland Secretary Hilary Benn viewing it as an opportunity to provide Northern Ireland with a functioning government. The agreement is expected to pass in the Commons with minimal opposition from the Conservative Party.

The deal has been generally welcomed by other parties in Northern Ireland, who are preparing to return to Stormont to elect an assembly speaker and appoint an executive led by Michelle O’Neill as first minister and a DUP member as deputy first minister.

This marks a significant milestone, with O’Neill stating that the partition of Ireland has "failed" its people and highlighting the change represented by her appointment as the first nationalist and republican woman from Tyrone to become first minister.


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