LONDON – Britain is demanding the European Union agree to rework the post-Brexit rules governing trade with Northern Ireland, saying it had considered taking unilateral action but would try once more to find a new relationship.
To avoid creating a hard border on the island of Ireland, Britain agreed to a deal in which Northern Ireland remained aligned with the EU’s single market. The Brexit deal was signed and approved by the British parliament in December 2020
But it created a regulatory border between Northern Ireland and the rest of the United Kingdom, causing serious trade friction for goods and raising fears about the delicate peace in the province.
Frost told the upper house of parliament that the government was looking to urgently open discussions to secure “significant change” to the protocol.
He said the government had considered using Article 16, which enables either party to take unilateral action if the protocol leads to serious economic, societal or environmental difficulties, but that now was not the right time.
Below are the details as set out by David Frost, the British minister who leads Brexit negotiations.
- Under the new plans, the United Kingdom said it did not need to rework the whole protocol but just the parts that affect trade.
- It said it needed to find a way of ensuring that full customs and sanitary and phytosanitary checks were only applied to goods destined for the European Union.
- It said the regulatory environment in the province should tolerate different rules, allowing goods made to UK rules and regulated by UK authorities to circulate freely in Northern Ireland, as long as they remain there.
- It said governance of the protocol should not ultimately be policed by EU institutions including the Court of Justice.
- It said it was willing to look at exceptional arrangements for “deep reciprocal sharing of data on trade, close cooperation with authorities across the EU and in Ireland, inspection processes, collective analysis of trade flows” and possibly specific arrangements for certain goods.
- It said it was willing to bring in legislation to prevent anyone in the province from exporting to Ireland goods which do not meet EU standards, or evade enforcement processes.
Frost told the House of Lords:
“We have looked carefully at the safeguards provided by Article 16 of the protocol, these exist to deal with significant societal and economic difficulties, as well as with trade diversion.
“It is clear that the circumstances exist to justify the use of Article 16, nevertheless, my Lords, we have concluded that it is not the right moment to do so.
“We see an opportunity to proceed differently, to find a new path, to seek to agree with EU through negotiations, a new balance in our arrangements covering Northern Ireland, to the benefit of all.”