The Northern Ireland Protocol, also known as the Irish Sea Border, is a part of the Brexit agreement that was reached between the United Kingdom and the European Union. The Protocol was designed to prevent a hard border between Northern Ireland, which is part of the UK, and the Republic of Ireland, which is a member of the EU. The Protocol came into effect on January 1, 2021, when the Brexit transition period ended.
Under the Protocol, Northern Ireland remains in the EU’s single market for goods, meaning that goods entering Northern Ireland from Great Britain must meet EU standards and regulations. This has led to the creation of a customs and regulatory border in the Irish Sea between Northern Ireland and Great Britain. Goods entering Northern Ireland from Great Britain are subject to customs checks and inspections to ensure that they meet EU standards. This has created some difficulties for businesses and consumers, particularly those who rely on trade between Northern Ireland and Great Britain.
The Protocol also includes provisions related to the movement of people between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. The Protocol allows for the continued free movement of people across the Irish border, which has been a key element of the Good Friday Agreement, which helped to bring an end to decades of conflict in Northern Ireland.
The Northern Ireland Protocol has been controversial, particularly among unionists in Northern Ireland who feel that it undermines their position within the UK. Some unionists have argued that the Protocol creates a border between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK, and have called for its repeal. There have also been concerns about the impact of the Protocol on Northern Ireland’s economy, particularly for businesses that rely on trade with Great Britain.
In response to these concerns, the UK government has sought to renegotiate some aspects of the Protocol. In July 2021, the UK government published a command paper outlining its proposals for a new approach to the Protocol. The proposals include a series of measures aimed at reducing the impact of the Protocol on Northern Ireland’s economy, including a “dual regulatory” approach that would allow Northern Ireland to align with both the EU and the UK on different regulatory issues.
However, the EU has rejected the UK’s proposals, arguing that they would undermine the integrity of the single market and the Good Friday Agreement. The EU has called on the UK to fully implement the Protocol as agreed, and has warned that it will take legal action if the UK fails to do so.
Overall, the Northern Ireland Protocol represents a complex and challenging aspect of the Brexit process. The Protocol is intended to prevent a hard border on the island of Ireland, but has created new barriers to trade and movement between Northern Ireland and Great Britain. The future of the Protocol remains uncertain, as the UK and the EU continue to debate its implementation and impact.