The European Union will outline a range of “very far-reaching” proposals aimed at resolving the political stand-off over Brexit’s Northern Ireland Protocol.
The measures will address issues over the movement of agri-food goods and medicines across the Irish Sea, European Commission vice president Maros Sefcovic has promised.
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At a glance: 5 key points
- The proposals are expected to significantly reduce the number of checks required on goods being shipped into Northern Ireland from the rest of the UK.
- Mr Sefcovic has also pledged to offer more of a voice for politicians and civic society in Northern Ireland on how the contentious trading arrangements operate.
- While the measures may potentially go some way to reducing everyday friction on trade between Great Britain and Northern Ireland, they are unlikely to satisfy a UK Government demand over the role of the European Court of Justice (ECJ).
- On Tuesday, UK Brexit negotiator Lord Frost made clear the removal of the ECJ’s oversight function in relation to the protocol was a red line for the Government.
- Under the terms of the deal struck by the UK and EU in 2019, the ECJ would be the final arbitrator in any future trade dispute between the two parties on the operation of the protocol. The UK now wants to remove that provision and replace it with an independent arbitration process but Mr Sefcovic has insisted that the EU will not move on the issue.
It is anticipated that the EU proposals, along with a wish list of reforms outlined by the Government in July, will form the basis of a new round of negotiations between Brussels and London in the weeks ahead.
The protocol was agreed by the UK and EU as a way to sidestep the major obstacle in the Brexit divorce talks – the Irish land border.
It achieved that by shifting regulatory and customs checks and processes to the Irish Sea.
The arrangements have created new economic barriers on goods moving from Great Britain to Northern Ireland.
This has caused disruption to many businesses in Northern Ireland and also created a major political headache for the Government, as unionists are furious at what they perceive as a weakening of the Union.
However, other businesses have benefited from the terms of the protocol, which provides Northern Ireland traders unique unfettered access to sell within the UK internal market and EU single market.
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