What is the Northern Ireland Protocol and why is it important? | Political news


The Northern Ireland Protocol has been at the heart of British policy for some years.

Since Brexit A transition period ended on December 31, 2020, the protocol has been a sticking point between Westminster, Belfast and the EU.

Today, the nationalist party Sinn Fein has made history by becoming the first nationalist party to win the most places in the Northern Ireland Assembly elections, with the DUP union suffering heavy losses.

Protocol is blamed for much of this turnaround in votes, with the DUP threatening not to take part in government unless Protocol is scrapped or replaced.

What is the Northern Ireland Protocol?

The UK and the EU have agreed to put the protocol in place after Brexit to avoid the introduction of a hard border between Ireland and Northern Ireland.

Lorries can continue to cross the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic without having papers and goods checked – as they did when the UK was in the EU.

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As Ireland remains in the EU, a new arrangement was needed to reflect strict EU food rules and border controls.

The protocol states that Northern Ireland will remain part of the customs territory of the UK – so if the UK signs a free trade agreement with another country, Northern Irish goods would be included.

However, Northern Ireland must follow certain EU rules to allow goods to move freely within the Republic and the rest of the EU.

Goods transported from Britain to Northern Ireland are not subject to customs duty unless they are ‘at risk’ of being transported to the EU afterwards.

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What is the Northern Ireland Protocol?

How does it work in practice?

Goods from Britain entering Northern Ireland had to go through EU import procedures at ports.

To carry out these checks, an Irish Sea border has effectively been imposed – which Boris Johnson has promised not to have.

This led to delays and sometimes sparse supermarket shelves as some suppliers decided to stop selling in Northern Ireland due to new costs and difficulties.

There have also been issues with “medicines, pets, movement of live animals, seeds, plants and many more,” former Brexit negotiator Lord said last year. Frost.

Not all controls specified by the EU have been fully implemented, such as paperwork for supermarkets which has been reduced during a temporary ‘grace period’.

However, these grace periods have been extended by the UK, leading to a row with the EU, as it considers this to be a breach of international law.

What do trade unionists think of protocol?

The three Unionist parties – the DUP, the Ulster Unionist Party and the Traditional Unionist Voice – are strongly opposed as they argue that the Irish Sea border threatens Northern Ireland’s place in the UK.

DUPs Paul Givan resigned as Prime Minister on the issue in February.

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NI Prime Minister Paul Givan resigns

DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson said ahead of the election that his party would not reinstate the Stormont Executive – which forces Nationalists and Unionists to operate – until Westminster acted to “protect Ireland from North within the United Kingdom”.

The party has said it will only enter a power-sharing government if the other parties agree the protocol should be scrapped or replaced.

He claimed the protocol had resulted in higher prices than in the rest of the UK, particularly for dairy and chilled ready meals.

What do nationalists think about protocol?

The two main nationalist parties, Sinn Fein and the SDLP, support the protocol.

Sinn Fein are in favor of the protocol as it prevents a hard border on the island of Ireland, and they want the island to be one nation.

Sinn Fein Deputy Leader Michelle O'Neill reacts to her mid Ulster election at the Northern Ireland Assembly election tally center at Meadowbank Sports Arena in Magherafelt in County Londonderry.  Picture date: Friday May 6, 2022.
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Its Vice-Chair Michelle O’Neill, who is set to become prime minister after the party’s election victory, said it was also a “Brexit mitigation”.

With Sinn Fein becoming the largest party in Stormont, nationalist views are expected to be strengthened on both sides of the Irish border, which could mean further resistance to protocol changes.

Can the Northern Irish parties do anything about the protocol?

The Assembly can vote on continuing the protocol in 2024, but would require cross-community support to extend the agreement for eight years.

With trade unionists strongly opposed, that seems unlikely at the moment.

However, a simple majority vote in favor could extend the arrangement for a minimum of four years.

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‘There’s a problem’ with NI protocol, says PM

What is Section 16?

Article 16 is a clause intended to be used when the protocol results in serious “economic, societal or environmental difficulties likely to persist, or diversion of traffic”.

It allows the UK or the EU to act unilaterally to suspend parts of the Brexit treaty to avoid such difficulties.

Invoking the article is considered a last resort when the parties have not been able to agree on a common approach to resolving issues.

Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said in January that if a negotiated solution could not be found, she was prepared to trigger Article 16, which Brussels said would “lead to instability and unpredictability”.

This could prompt the EU to react with retaliatory measures such as the imposition of import taxes on certain sectors of trade.

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