What is the Northern Ireland protocol and what does it mean? Brexit deal explained

    What is the Northern Ireland protocol and what does it mean? Brexit deal explained

    The Foreign Secretary is to declare her intention to bring forward legislation which rips up parts of the UK’s post-Brexit trade deal on Northern Ireland.

    It is understood that Liz Truss will make the announcement in a statement to the Commons on Tuesday following a full Cabinet meeting, in an attempt to restore powersharing in the region. You can follow live updates here.

    The row over the Northern Ireland Protocol has created an impasse in efforts to form a new Executive in Stormont, with the DUP refusing to join an administration unless its concerns over the arrangements are addressed.

    Read more: The big questions answered amid tensions over post-Brexit deal

    But what is the protocol and how does it work? We’ve put together an explainer with everything you need to know about the NI protocol.

    What is the Northern Ireland protocol?

    The NI protocol lets lorries deliver goods without having paperwork and goods checked when crossing the border from Northern Ireland into the Republic of Ireland.

    Before Brexit, when both the Republic of Ireland and NI were part of the EU, they automatically followed the same trade rules which meant no checks were necessary at the border.

    But a new arrangement was needed after NI left the EU along with the rest of the UK. The EU has strict food rules and requires border checks when certain goods – such as milk and eggs – arrive from non-EU countries.

    To try and get around the problem, the UK and EU negotiated the Northern Ireland protocol as part of the Brexit withdrawal agreement, which is part of international law.

    Instead of checks happening at the Irish border, it was agreed inspections would take place between Northern Ireland and Great Britain (England, Scotland and Wales) at ports in NI.

    However, checks on GB goods at ports in NI have led to criticism that a new trade border has essentially been created in the Irish Sea.

    Why are unionists opposed to the Northern Ireland protocol?

    Unionist parties argue that placing a border across the Irish Sea undermines Northern Ireland’s place within the United Kingdom.

    In February 2022, the DUP’s First Minister Paul Givan resigned in protest over the matter.

    Following the Northern Ireland Assembly Election in May 2022, DUP leader Jeffrey Donaldson said the party would not be nominating any ministers to the new NI Executive until their concerns about the protocol were addressed.

    What is Article 16?

    Article 16 is part of the protocol agreement that allows either side to suspend any part of the agreement that causes “economic, societal or environmental difficulties.”

    If the UK were to trigger Article 16, it could prompt the EU to respond with measures that would impose tariffs (or import taxes) on aspects of trade between the two sides.

    The EU has warned that any such move would “lead to instability and unpredictability.”

    Read more: SDLP to form “constructive opposition” at Stormont

    Read more: Michael Long to ‘make history’ as he becomes Belfast Lord Mayor

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