By Peter McLaren-Kennedy • 28 April 2022 • 22:00
Northern Ireland border image: Twitter
The checks required as part of the divorce agreement were implemented by the EU immediately after the agreement came into forece, however the UK despite signing the agreement have failed to implement the checks. Firstly because they said they needed more time to get prepared, then to appease political allies in Northern Ireland and now as the country battles, like the rest of the world is, with rising inflation.
Announcing the delay today the government said that sprialling energy costs and fragile global supply chains were the main reasons behind the decision.
With the effective border between the UK and Northern Ireland rather than on the island itself, with the Good Friday agreement guaranteeing free movement, British companies have complained that the agreement gives their EU counterparts a competitive advantage. Retailers have also complained of the difficulties in stocking outlets in Northern Ireland.
Jacob Rees-Mogg, Britain’s Minister for Brexit opportunities said: “It’s vital that we have the right import controls regime in place, so we’ll now be working with industry to review these remaining controls so that they best suit the UK’s own interests.”
The action also follows the report earleir this week by the London School of Economics who said that Brexit had adfded six percent to the cost of food in the UK
The protocol was seen as important piece of the Brexit agreement, effectively determining where the border between the UK and the EU lay, something that the UK government have never been happy with despite having agreed and committed themselves legally.
Effectively the plan, which it is understood will be announced as part of the queen’s speech, will see ministers suspend checks on goods travelling between the UK and Northern Ireland.
It is understood that not all parts of the agreement will be ditched with some discussion taking place to agree on the changes, with the government looking to protect the Good Friday agreement whilst making the changes.
According to LBC the government plans to go further than to trigger article 16, a move that would suspend the protocol considered controversial in the UK. Ministers plan to bypass article 16 according to the same report and supersede it with new legislation.
The move is bound to be seen as inflammatory by the EU who have already warned the UK not to renege on its commitments under international law. The government in the UK is understood to see it differently, rather seeing it as sending a message to the EU that it is willing to suspend the protocol.
It is understood that ministers do expect a fresh backlash from Brussels but are said to be prepared to accept the consequences, in what has been described as “the mother of all rows.”
Irish Taoiseach Micheal Martin warned the UK on Tuesday April 26th: “I’m a great believer in adherence to international law, and most modern states are as well, most modern Parliaments are.”
Perhaps the starkest warning comes from outside the EU with US President Joe Biden saying last year that he felt “very strongly” about the Protocol. That views has been echoed by members of his top team who have been similarly outspoken on the issue.
Sources within government say that increased diplomatic efforts have softened the stance in Washington with a growing acceptance of the need for some compromise, however they still speak of their concerns as to how Washington might react to the news of any unilateral suspension of the protocol.
Apparently a final decision will be taken following the Ireland Assembly elections next week, with any mention in the queen’s speech to retain reference to the need to protect the Good Friday agreement – that seen as the key to maintaining peace on the Island.
Attempts to unilaterally suspend the agreement by DUP minister Edwin Poots was swiftly put down by the High Court. UK government officials believe new legislation will be needed before UK politicians can stop the checks without the EU’s approval
A UK government spokesperson said: “We are keeping this issue under careful review, given ongoing supply chain disruption – including as a result of Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine, and wider cost of living pressures.
“It is precisely because of Brexit that we’re able to set an import controls regime which is best suited to our own needs.”
Whilst the problems on the Irish border could have been foreseen by the British government it still seems hell bent on breaking the agreement it agreed and signed up to, but as it prepares to ‘tear up’ the NI Protocol it may well have not accounted for the courts who could still force it to meet it obligations.
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Originally from South Africa, Peter is based on the Costa Blanca and is a web reporter for the Euro Weekly News covering international and Spanish national news.
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