Brexit: Could Windsor Framework reset strained UK-Ireland ties?

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A map of Ireland, with the border separating the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland highlighted in bold redImage source, Getty Images

The Republic of Ireland - more than any other EU state - wants to get Brexit done at last.

It shares a land border with Northern Ireland and the UK.

It is keenly aware of the sensitivities of those unionists north of that border who see the Northern Ireland Protocol as a threat to their Britishness.

In order to avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland, the protocol effectively created a trade border for goods travelling across the Irish Sea from Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

The strength of unionist feeling against that was such that the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) has refused to participate in the political institutions set up by the 25-year-old Good Friday Agreement that helped bed down the peace process after three decades of violence in Northern Ireland.

Attention in Dublin will now turn to whether the DUP - the biggest unionist party at Stormont - sees enough in the Windsor Framework to return to the power-sharing government in Belfast.

Image source, PA Media
Image caption,
DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson's opinion on the Windsor Framework will be keenly anticipated in Dublin

Few expect the DUP to sign up immediately to the new agreement, at least in part because it has to contest council elections in Northern Ireland in May.

But the hope is there will be no immediate, outright rejection.

"The perfect is the enemy of the good" and "in any negotiation nobody gets everything they want" are two phrases we can expect to hear a lot of in the coming days.

Twice before the EU has seen the UK government attempt to renege on a Brexit deal it had agreed to, largely because of internal Conservative Party divisions.

But there is confidence in Dublin that this time it will be third time lucky, not least because the price of failure - including a possible trade war over broken promises - is too high to pay amid a cost-of-living crisis.

There is no doubt that Brexit soured the good relations that had existed between the UK and Ireland because of their joint interest in Northern Ireland affairs in the wake of the Good Friday Agreement.

The hope now is that the Windsor Framework will allow a reset, not just between the two states but also between the UK and the wider EU.

But it is only hope - not yet confidence or certainty.