RISHI Sunak has hailed a “decisive breakthrough” in the long-running row over post-Brexit trade rules in Northern Ireland after signing a deal with the EU.

The Prime Minister said the Windsor Framework would deliver the smooth flow of goods in the UK and protect Northern Ireland’s place in the Union.

He confirmed the European Court of Justice would continue to operate in the province, but said there would also be a “Stormont brake” allowing a local veto to new EU goods rules.

Standing next to European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen after signging the agreement, Mr Sunak said MPs woould have a vote on ity art an "apppropriate time" but offered firm timetable.

He said it was important that politicians in Northern Ireland and elsewhere took the time to digest the fine print of the legal text first.

Instead of the current checks on goods between GB and NI, there will be a check-free green lane for goods staying in NI and a red lane with checks for those which may be transported on to the Republic of Ireland, in the EU.

Speaking at a press conference alongside Ms von der Leyen in Windsor, the Prime Minister said: “I’m pleased to report that we have now made a decisive breakthrough.

“Together we have changed the original protocol and are today announcing the new Windsor framework.

“Today’s agreement delivers smooth-flowing trade within the whole United Kingdom, protects Northern Ireland’s place in our union and safeguards sovereignty for the people of Northern Ireland.

“We’ve amended the legal text of the of the protocol to ensure we can make critical VAT and excise changes for the whole of the UK, for example alcohol duty, meaning our reforms to cut the cost of a pint in a pub will now apply in Northern Ireland.”

Trying to draw a line under years of bad blood between the EU and UK since the Leave vote of 2016, Mr Sunak said it was “the beginning of a new chapter in our relationship".

He said: “The United Kingdom and European Union may have had our differences in the past but we are allies, trading partners and friends, something that we have seen clearly in the past year as we join with others to support Ukraine.

"For a quarter of a century the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement has endured because at its heart it is respectful to the aspirations and identity of all communities. Today’s agreement is about preserving that delicate balance and charting a new way forward for the people of Northern Ireland.

“Today’s agreement delivers the smooth flow of trade within the United Kingdom. Goods destined for Northern Ireland will travel through a new green lane with a separate red lane for goods at risk of moving on to the EU.

“Food retailers like supermarkets, restaurants and wholesalers will no longer need hundreds of certificates for every lorry and we will end the situation where food made to UK rules could not be sent to and sold in Northern Ireland. This means that if food is available on supermarket shelves in Great Britain, then it will be available on supermarket shelves in Northern Ireland.”

Referencing the process of sending parcels and VAT, he said: “This means we have removed any sense of a border in the Irish Sea. Second, we have protected Northern Ireland’s place in the Union.”

The framework also represented a “landmark settlement” on medicines, Mr Sunak said.

It would make “drugs approved for use by the UK medicines regulator automatically available” in Northern Ireland pharmacies.

He went on: “I believe the Windsor Framework marks a turning point for the people of Northern Ireland.

“It fixes the practical problems they face, it preserves the balance of the Belfast Good Friday Agreement.

“Now of course parties will want to consider the agreement in detail, a process that will need time and care.

“Today’s agreement is written in the language of laws and treaties. But really, it’s about much more than that.

“It’s about stability in Northern Ireland. It’s about real people and real businesses. It’s about showing that our Union that has lasted for centuries can and will endure. And it’s about breaking down the barriers between us, setting aside the arguments that for too long have divided us.”

President von der Leyen called the deal "historic", but also said it would take time to come into effect, and was not fully finalised yet.

She said: “I believe we can now open a new chapter in our partnership, a stronger EU-UK relationship, standing as close partners, shoulder to shoulder now and in the future.”

She said: “For this to work, we have agreed on strong safeguards like IT access, labels and enforcement procedures that will protect the integrity of the European Union’s single market

The Windsor Framework “respects and protects our respective markets and our respective legitimate interests”, she said.

She also spoke about of the “very hard-earned peace gains of the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement” as she condemned the recent shooting of a PSNI officer in Northern Ireland.

“The new Windsor Framework is here to benefit people in Northern Ireland and support all communities celebrating peace on the island of Ireland."  

Mr Sunak said the deal introduced a new "Stormont brake", allowing the assembly not only to have a say over EU laws but also to block them from applying in Northern Ireland.

“This will establish a clear process for which the democratically elected assembly can pull an emergency brake” for changes to EU rules on goods that would have a “significant and lasting” effect on everyday life, he said.

If the brake is pulled, the UK government will have a veto, he added.

Ms von der Leyen said each side had “worked hard” to add the brake, but stressed it was an "emergency" mechanism she hoped would not be used.

“Extensive consultations” with the UK and Northern Ireland will regulate the system, she said.

She also confirmed the European Court of Justice (ECJ) remained the “sole and ultimate arbiter of EU law” and would have the “final say” on single market decisions affecting Northern Ireland.

Many Tory Brexiteer MPs want the ECJ to have no influence and for all EU law to be "expunged" in NI, putting it on a par with the rest of the UK.

The remedial deal, intended to end problems created by the Protocol agreed by Boris Johnson, will now be interrogated by Tory MPs and Ulster Unionists.

The pound rose against the US dollar and the euro on the news.

However the deal could shatter if the DUP refuse to back it.

The Unionist party has refused to share power at Stormont with Sinn Fein in protest at the operation of the Protocol, arguing the continued application of some EU laws in Northern Ireland undermines the Union.

The Protocol has also resulted in checks on goods moving from GB to NI, with a trade border in the Irish sea to avoid one on land.

DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson said his party would "take out time to consider the detail and measure a deal" against a series of tests.

Acceptance could see the return of power-sharing in Belfast.

If the DUP reject the deal, it would trigger a revolt from Brexiteer Tory MPs, possibly including Mr Johnson, jeopardising Mr Sunak.

Earliery, arch Tory Brexiteer Jacob Rees-Mogg warned Mr Sunak: “It will all depend on the DUP. If the DUP are against it, I think there will be quite a significant number of Conservatives who are unhappy.”

He said that the position of Mr Johnson, who he pointedly described as the “biggest figure in UK politics”, would be “fundamental”.

However his fellow arch-Brexiteer, Steve Baker, now Northern Ireland Office minister, gave Mr Sunak his support.

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood said the deal should be considered “in good faith” with an eye to restoring Northern Ireland’s powersharing institutions.

He said: “The SDLP will study the legal text of the agreement between the European Commission and the British Government in detail over the coming hours.

“Our primary goals have been to retain the benefits of dual market access for businesses in Northern Ireland, restore the democratic institutions of the Good Friday Agreement and to send politicians back to work in the interests of all our people.

“My appeal to political leaders is to approach this moment in good faith and with a common determination to restore our Assembly and executive. People have been badly let down with no government for far too long. It is time to abandon the politics of division and deadlock.

“To those intent on intervening in this process to bolster their own political position I would say this – do not attempt to wreck this deal, to demolish the hope of a resolution that serves the people of Northern Ireland. Do not let fragile egos inflict further damage to our fragile settlement.

“The SDLP will approach this deal in good faith determined to get to work.”

Ireland’s deputy leader and foreign affairs minister Micheal Martin welcomed the deal, calling it a “genuine response” to Unionist concerns.

He said: “The Windsor Framework is the result of genuine engagement, and of the EU and UK working together and listening to the concerns raised by elected representatives, citizens and business in Northern Ireland.

“From the outset, we have always said that the only sustainable outcome is one based on jointly agreed solutions.

“I heard first-hand the concerns of many unionists. I believe they will see in this a genuine response to their genuine concerns.

“This new framework will, for example, ensure that the same food will be available on supermarket shelves in Northern Ireland as in the rest of the UK. Medicines will also be available to people in Northern Ireland at the same time and under the same conditions as the rest of the UK.”

DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson said: “Over 18 months ago the Democratic Unionist Party outlined seven tests which at the time I indicated would be the basis upon which we would judge any agreement between the United Kingdom and the European Union.

“It is now one year since we withdrew our first minister from the then Northern Ireland executive to send the clearest possible signal that we did not support the Northern Ireland Protocol and that we were not prepared to implement that which was disastrous for Northern Ireland.

“Since the imposition of that protocol many, including the Government, the European Union and indeed those early cheerleaders for it in Northern Ireland, have come to recognise that it could not have been made to work, had upset the delicate political balance in Northern Ireland and was not supported by the unionist community in Northern Ireland.

“Our judgment 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 renegotiation and no change, our determination has proved what can be achieved.

“We would like to thank the Prime Minister and his predecessors for their work and significant engagement to date.

“We welcome the publication of the outcome of the Government’s negotiations with the EU which ends a period of speculation and spin, often from those who know little about Northern Ireland.

“In broad terms it is clear that significant progress has been secured across a number of areas whilst also recognising 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.

“The DUP will want to study the detail of what has been published today as well as examining the detail of any and all underpinning legal texts. Where necessary we stand ready to engage with the Government in order to seek further clarification, re-working or change as required.

“Ultimately the party will now assess all these proposed outcomes and arrangements against our seven tests, outlined in our 2022 Assembly Election Manifesto, to determine whether what has been published meet our tests and whether it respects and restores Northern Ireland’s place within the United Kingdom.”

Steve Baker  said he “wholeheartedly” backs the new UK-EU deal because of the Stormont brake, and warned critics to be “reasonable” on how laws will be applied to Northern Ireland.

The Northern Ireland Office minister told the BBC: “There’s going to be some tests, which is reasonable, because I don’t think anyone reasonable would want just some random rejection of laws.”

The amount of EU law that will apply in Northern Ireland was “now down to the absolute minimum necessary to keep that north-south border free of infrastructure”, he said.

“The bottom line is, provided it’s a material impediment to trade in Northern Ireland, the Assembly will be able to say no…

“If the Assembly says no, then we will be able to veto the application of that new rule in Northern Ireland. So if sovereignty is the power to say no, which I think it often is, this is a terrific achievement.

“I’m delighted. As late as yesterday, I still thought I might have to resign, but this is, in the end, the mechanism by which I’m sure I can back this wholeheartedly.”