Brexit: EU to wade into Northern Ireland, UK row

The European Commission is on Wednesday due to unveil its proposed solutions to the row with London over Northern Ireland.

European Commission vice-president and Brexit envoy Maros Sefcovic is expected to present Brussels’ plans for how to minimise the trading difficulties presented by the so-called Northern Ireland Protocol.

This could include exceptions for individual products such as certain foods and medicines, according to reports.

A fundamental renegotiation of the protocol is expected to remain off the table, however.

It is considered highly doubtful that the proposed measures will go far enough to satisfy London.

On Tuesday, British Brexit Minister David Frost had called for a full reform of the protocol.

Among other things, he insisted that the role of the European Court of Justice (ECJ) in policing the protocol must end.

Frost also reiterated a threat to suspend parts of the protocol through an emergency mechanism.

On Wednesday, the co-chairman of the governing Conservatives, Oliver Dowden, said the oversight role of the ECJ was a major issue for us.

He told broadcaster Sky News that the Northern Ireland Protocol is not working.

“One of the challenges of that is the fact that the treaty is governed by the court of one of the signatories.’’

He indicated that Britain would favour having independent courts and arbitration mechanisms to oversee the agreement.

The Northern Ireland Protocol had delivered a breakthrough in the protracted dispute between Brussels and London about the status of Northern Ireland, a territory that had experienced decades of civil war due to split allegiances between Britain and the Republic of Ireland.

Under the protocol, Northern Ireland continues to follow EU single market and customs union rules, thus preventing a hard border between Northern Ireland and EU member the Republic of Ireland.

However, this necessitates controls between Britain and Northern Ireland, since London no longer wants to be bound by EU standards.

Goods coming from England, Scotland, or Wales to Northern Ireland now have to be declared and partly undergo controls.

But practically and politically, this is a thorn in the side of the government in London as well as being seen as unacceptable by Northern Irish pro-British Unionists.

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