Johnson urged to ‘plunge’ sword into Northern Ireland protocol
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The Protocol, which was signed by the Government in 2019, is part of Britain’s post-Brexit arrangements with the EU to govern trade after it left the bloc. This part of the agreement aims to ensure that there is no hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. Northern Ireland left the EU with the rest of the UK last year but remains in the EU’s single market for goods.
In theory the Protocol is supposed to maintain the flows of unrestricted trade between Northern Ireland and Britain.
However, strict customs checks on British goods arriving in Northern Ireland have caused chaos for local businesses.
The Prime Minister Boris Johnson has called for Brussels to relax its application of the rules under the Protocol.
The Government wants the EU to scrap many of the checks and has asked it to extend so-called “grace periods” that allow businesses time to get used to the new rules.
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According to Dr Graham Gudgin, the chief economic adviser of think tank, Policy Exchange, the Protocol needs reforming or replacing.
Dr Gudgin gave a presentation to the Northern Ireland Assembly Finance Committee on the Protocol in June, which was posted on the Briefings for Britain website, which he co-edits.
He said: “The UK Government under Boris Johnson views the NI Protocol as what the Chinese call an unequal treaty, and in my view is correct to do so.
“The Protocol was accepted in October 2019 under conditions of acute political disarray and a parliamentary civil war culminating in the Benn Act which essentially gave the EU cart blanche to name its terms.
“Not surprisingly, the EU, egged on by Dublin, took full advantage of this disarray and imposed terms for a UK:EU trade agreement which was maximally advantageous to themselves and the Republic of Ireland and maximally unfavourable to the integrity of the UK and to NI Unionists.
“It is this agreement that the UK Government is attempting to renegotiate and at a minimum wishes to agree major reforms.”
Dr Gudgin argued that British firms not being able to continue their pre-Brexit business arrangements was a “key part of the negative impact of the Protocol on the NI economy”.
Under the Protocol many medicines and other products from Britain face being banned from Northern Ireland.
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The UK’s Brexit Minister Lord Frost said earlier this month that between 280 and 290 medicines will be discontinued in Northern Ireland from January 1, 2022, when the grace period ends.
British-made drugs will have to be licensed specifically for use in Northern Ireland.
The Protocol has had a similar impact on the import of British chilled meats, including sausages, to the country.
Earlier this year a so-called “sausage war” erupted between the UK and the EU as British bangers were set to be banned from Northern Ireland.
The EU agreed in June that it would extend a grace period – thus delaying the ban – until October 1.
Meat, dairy, fish and eggs all need export health certification to ensure they comply with EU rules.
However, according to Aodhán Connolly from the Northern Ireland Retail Consortium, the necessary arrangements for checks on British goods are not in place at Northern Irish ports.
He told BBC News NI that there would be “friction” caused by “new certification required that will need to be signed off by a vet”.
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