Finally an agreement on the horizon? Discussions between the United Kingdom and the European Union on post-Brexit controls in Northern Ireland are “very constructive”said the President of the European Commission on Wednesday 1 February.
“Our teams are working together to find solutions and arrive at a common framework (…) The negotiations will continue until the very end, until the moment when you know what the finalized agreement is and you sign”insisted Ursula von der Leyen, during a press conference in Brussels.
Preserving the 1998 peace accord
Negotiated at the same time as the Brexit conditions, the protocol effectively keeps Northern Ireland, which has the only British land border with the EU, in the European single market. The text aims both to preserve the 1998 peace agreement, avoiding the return of a hard customs border between the Republic of Ireland (member of the EU) and Northern Ireland, while protecting the integrity of the single market.
Northern Irish Unionists see customs controls on goods from Britain as a threat to Northern Ireland’s place within the United Kingdom. They are therefore boycotting local institutions, demanding profound changes to Northern Irish protocol.
However, the text has never been fully implemented: grace periods on controls have been introduced and extended for products such as non-frozen meat or medicines. Therefore, its full application augurs an aggravation of the difficulties.