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Northern Ireland Protocol explained

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During talks about Brexit, a trade agreement called the Northern Ireland Protocol was made. It means goods can move across Ireland’s land border without being checked.

Before Brexit, it was easy to move goods across this border because both countries followed the same EU rules. The Republic of Ireland, which is part of the EU, shares a land border with Northern Ireland. However, when the UK left the EU, trade had to be handled differently.

Strict rules govern food in the EU. At the border, goods from outside the EU, like milk and eggs, are checked.

Because of the troubled political history of Northern Ireland, the land border is a sensitive topic. As part of these checks, cameras or border posts were feared to cause instability.

The EU and the UK agreed that protecting the Good Friday Agreement, a peace deal in Northern Ireland was the most important thing.

So, the Northern Ireland Protocol was signed by both sides as part of the deal to leave the EU.

It is now the law everywhere in the world.

What does the Northern Ireland protocol aim to do?

Rather than  checking goods at the Irish border, the protocol said that inspections and document checks would be done between Great Britain (England, Scotland, and Wales) and Northern Ireland.

At the ports in Northern Ireland, these things happen.

It was also decided that Northern Ireland would keep doing what the EU says about product standards.

When to expect a deal on the Northern Ireland Protocol?

After talking about the Northern Ireland Protocol for more than a year, the UK and the EU are finally getting close to a deal.

Since 2021, when they went into effect, the trading rules for Northern Ireland after Brexit have been a source of political disagreement.

Rishi Sunak went to Belfast to talk with politicians from Stormont about possible solutions.

The Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), one of the most vocal opponents of the Northern Ireland protocol, says that progress has been made and this is a “big moment” on the way to a deal.

Now, the prime minister will try to finish a deal with the EU by returning to the table.

So, what might a deal look like in real life? Will it make people who don’t like how things are now happy?

Lanes in green and red: Products staying in Northern Ireland will go through the green lane and go through fewer checks and paperwork than those going to the Republic of Ireland.

This kind of thing was called an “express lane” in the EU.

No matter what you call it, one of the most important questions will be how much these controls are changed or even taken away.

More paperwork, like customs declarations, has been a bigger problem for Northern Ireland businesses than physical checks. So for them, a true “green lane” would mean less paperwork.

When the two sides agreed to share trade data using a system made in the UK, it was a big step toward this agreement as a whole.

The EU says this “real-time” information will help them keep a closer eye on what is going across the Irish Sea and could end up in their single market.

There will still be a role for the European Court of Justice.

Under the Northern Ireland protocol, Northern Ireland must follow some of the EU’s trade rules.

People say that the European Commission has made it “absolutelyclear” to member states that it has stuck to its red line, which is that the European Court of Justice (ECJ) will have the last word on issues related to the single market.

The UK’s first position was that the ECJ should not be able to act as a watchdog.

But you can expect to hear words that downplay the importance of the court and emphasize other ways to settle disagreements.

People think that, at least in Northern Ireland, any new cases would be heard first in a national court, as is common in member states.

Taxes and government aid

Northern Ireland businesses follow EU state aid and VAT rules.

So, tax breaks and payments made by the UK government to help businesses in Northern Ireland must stay within limits set by the EU.

Here, sources have told the BBC that there will be “fudge” in less important areas than the Irish Sea trade border and governance.

When it comes to making a deal, the times are always changing.

People are talking a lot about the beginning of next week. There could be an announcement on Tuesday, followed by a debate in the House of Commons on Wednesday.

Some people think the agreement could be made public sooner, on Monday.

The European Commission has told EU ambassadors that things could move quickly and asked them to be ready.

“The last miles are the hardest,” one EU diplomat said. This is about the right amount of care.

Technical talks between the EU and the UK started up again in October 2022.

Read Also: Why the UK economy is lagging behind

The two groups agreed to share information about trade in January 2023. This will let the EU get into the UK’s IT systems and learn more about the goods that move from the UK to Northern Ireland.

The EU and the UK said they would “work quickly” on other issues, raising hopes for a possible agreement before the 25th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement in April.

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