On the implementation of the Protocol on Ireland and Northern Ireland
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On the implementation of the Protocol on Ireland and Northern Ireland

The European Union has proposed far-reaching solutions to facilitate the implementation of the Protocol and strengthen stability and predictability for people and businesses in Northern Ireland.

We must stay laser-focused on practical challenges raised by Northern Irish stakeholders – particularly on the area of customs and the movement of sanitary and phytosanitary goods. An understanding could immediately and significantly help operators on the ground, while safeguarding the integrity of the EU’s Single Market.

In this context, I perceive the recent instruction by the Northern Irish Minister for Agriculture to cease sanitary and phytosanitary checks between Great Britain and Northern Ireland as unhelpful. It creates uncertainty and unpredictability for the people and businesses in Northern Ireland. These checks are necessary for Northern Ireland to benefit from access to the EU’s Single Market for goods. SPS checks continue to be carried out in Northern Irish ports, while officials seek further legal advice. However, the political fallout from the move is potentially significant.

Authorities in Brussels and Dublin have both responded to the move as unhelpful, and continue to insist that the obligations entered by the UK government stemming from the Protocol be met.

The UK government has urged the DUP to reinstate its ministers, and seems to not be considering the possibility of bringing forward the election date.

Theses events can either help or hinder the current talks between Foreign Secretary Liz Truss and Commission Vice-President Maroš Sefcovic. The renewed urgency could lead to more impetus for a deal, or increase the confusion and instability on both sides.

Legislation is expected to pass the House of Commons soon that will manage the fallout and instability in Northern Ireland and allow the Executive to continue towards the original date.

The Protocol, the cornerstone of the Withdrawal Agreement, is an international agreement. It is therefore the UK government’s responsibility to uphold its legal obligations stemming from the Protocol – the only solution we have found with the UK government to protect the Good Friday (Belfast) Agreement, taking into account the type of Brexit the UK government chose. By respecting our international obligations and living up to our responsibilities trust is built and maintained, also in the future. Intensive talks should continue on facilitating the implementation of the Protocol this week.