This week saw the Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak, unveil the Windsor Framework – an agreement between the UK and the EU which changes the way the Northern Ireland Protocol operates.
This agreement comes after two years of negotiations between the EU and the UK since the Northern Ireland Protocol came into force in January 2021. The goal of the Windsor Framework is to rebalance the Protocol, restore the consent of all communities and chart a new way forward for Northern Ireland.
How the Windsor Agreement achieves these aims is by, firstly, ensuring free flowing trade by removing the border in the Irish Sea. There will be a new Green Lane for goods travelling to Northern Ireland with no more customs bureaucracy or routine checks. Moreover, by removing the ban on supermarket foods (like sausages), what is available in GB will now be available in NI. It will also scrap customs for post and parcels (making it easier to send gifts and shop online), abolish export declarations for goods going from NI to GB, solve the issue of steel movements into NI, and more.
Secondly, the Framework will safeguard Northern Ireland’s place in our Union. This will be done by ensuring that UK tax policy applies to the whole of the UK. Moreover, it will tackle the ‘reach back’ of EU state aid law so that businesses can trade and invest freely in NI. In addition, the same medicines will be available across the UK, the ban on English oaks and Scottish seed potatoes being available in NI garden centres will be removed, and pets will be able to travel freely with their owners in and out of NI.
Finally, it will also ensure sovereignty for the people of Northern Ireland. A “STORMONT BRAKE” will be implemented, which will allow NI to block new EU laws via a new UK veto. The Windsor Agreement will also be placed in international law by subjecting it to the Vienna Convention.
I am pleased that this deal will deliver certainty for the people of Northern Ireland, and we can move forward together as one country.
Yesterday, children across the country went to school dressed at their favourite literary characters to celebrate World Book Day.
Studies have shown reading for pleasure is the single biggest indicator of a child’s future success – more than their family circumstances, their parents’ educational backgrounds or their income. Whilst reading attainment levels improved in 2022, the number of children who say they enjoy reading is at its lowest levels in 18 years. This is why initiatives like World Book Day are vital.
Throughout my career as an MP, I have been passionate about getting children reading. I have chaired a cross-party group (APPG) for Libraries - as well as launching the Summer Reading Challenge in Parliament. Initiatives such as World Book Day and the Summer Reading Challenge are hugely important in unlocking the power of reading, which in turn can help children fulfil their future potential.
This shared passion for reading and literature has been shown by the wonderful success of Swindon’s Bert’s Books. In such challenging times for traditional High Street chains it is great to see an independent retailer buck the trend – and even recently becoming a national (and international) viral sensation! To celebrate World Book Day Bert’s Books has various promotions to get children reading, so a great time to give them a visit!