EU member states have given their approval to key changes to the Northern Ireland Protocol provided for by the Windsor Framework.

The move will give the European Commission a mandate to bring forward the changes through the EU-UK Joint Committee, which implements the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement.

The Joint Committee will meet in London on Friday.

This morning, EU affairs ministers meeting in Brussels adopted two decisions relating to key parts of the Windsor Framework.

Jessika Roswall, the Swedish EU affairs minister, said: "The agreement on the Windsor Framework is a truly positive achievement ahead of the 25th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement.

"It will benefit people and businesses in Northern Ireland and should allow the EU and the UK to open a new chapter in our relations.

"The member states stand united behind the European Commission in their support for the agreed solutions and look forward to their swift implementation in good faith."

Sweden currently holds the rotating presidency of the Council of the European Union and chaired this morning's meeting of EU affairs ministers from 27 member states.

A statement said the adoption of the decisions "demonstrates the EU's commitment to implementing the joint solutions that have been found to address practical difficulties in implementing the protocol on Ireland/Northern Ireland on the ground".

Yesterday, the DUP said it would vote against the Stormont brake element of the deal in a House of Commons vote set for tomorrow.


What is the Windsor Framework?

It is a set of political declarations and legal texts that the EU and UK agreed on following months of technical negotiations, in order to alleviate the burden of the protocol on traders and to make it more palatable to unionists.

It envisages a new red and green lane system for goods entering Northern Ireland from Britain, which should dramatically reduce paperwork and checks.

It also provides for the Stormont brake, whereby 30 MLAs can raise concerns so that, in exceptional circumstances, updated or amended EU single market rules might not apply in Northern Ireland.


Meanwhile, British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak's spokesperson has urged MPs to back the new agreement in tomorrow's vote, adding it was a good deal amid criticism from some Conservatives.

"The Stormont brake is important and the most significant part of the framework, and we continue to urge parliamentarians to back it," Mr Sunak's spokesperson said.

"I don't get into commenting on messages to Conservative MPs... But broadly this is a good deal for the people of Northern Ireland."

The comments came after an influential group of eurosceptic Conservative MPs warned that the Stormont brake mechanism was "practically useless".

"EU law will still be supreme in Northern Ireland ... the Stormont brake is practically useless and the framework itself has no exit other than through a highly complex legal process," European Research Group (ERG) Chairman Mark Francois told reporters.

Mr Francois said the group would meet tomorrow morning to decide whether to vote for the brake.


Read more:
The Stormont brake and its possible impact on Ireland
Latest Brexit stories


SDLP leader Colum Eastwood said his party has not decided whether it will vote in favour of or abstain from the Commons vote on the Stormont brake.

"I think it's utterly ridiculous for anybody to think that 30 MLAs in Northern Ireland would be able to veto European regulations. That's madness," Mr Eastwood said on Good Morning Ulster.

"I think the Stormont brake is a bad idea anyway, I think it muddies the water in terms of our investment proposition."

Mr Eastwood said Northern Ireland would benefit from dual market access.

He said: "I don't really understand what the DUP were expecting was going to happen. They can have their position on this if they want, but the deal is done, it is absolutely clear.

"They're going to find that tomorrow when the British government vote this through anyway, the deal is done. There is no more negotiating to be done."

DUP vows to fight on

DUP MP Sammy Wilson said the party will "continue the fight" against the Northern Ireland Protocol following the vote.

Mr Wilson was asked by Mr Eastwood when the DUP plans to return to Stormont.

The party has refused to return to power-sharing in Stormont since May 2022 over concerns surrounding the protocol.

"Colum, you may be prepared to roll over, to having powers taken away from the people who are elected to Stormont, we're not," Mr Wilson said.

"At one stage the SDLP and Alliance and other parties were saying we've got to have the full implementation of the protocol because there's no other game in town," he said.

"We insisted that the protocol was not acceptable and that negotiation had to be undertaken to revise it and remove it. We got the negotiation, but we didn't get the outcome so we have to continue the fight, and we will continue the fight."

Meanwhile, Ulster Unionist Party leader Doug Beattie said while further reforms are necessary, the Windsor Framework represents an important stepping stone in resolving Brexit trading relationships.

"The Ulster Unionist Party see the framework as a stepping stone towards achieving a lasting solution to the many issues and challenges with our post-Brexit trading relationship with both Great Britain and the European Union," he said.

"The Stormont brake offers Northern Ireland politicians a unique say in EU laws that may affect this part of the UK due to our access to the single market, but important points of legal and technical clarification still remain outstanding."

Additional reporting PA