Peter Kyle hits out at Johnson’s broken promise on Northern Ireland
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Liz Truss has laid down the gauntlet to the EU, challenging them to renegotiate the protocol. She said if they fail to do so, the UK will act unilaterally to introduce legislation and change it themselves. The EU has threatened retaliation. But a commentator has highlighted the alternative methods that were ignored when the protocol was first negotiated between Boris Johnson’s government and the EU.
The Northern Ireland Protocol came into effect in January 2021. It was designed to avoid checks on goods between NI and the Irish Republic, which since Brexit, has been a border between the UK and the European Union.
However, it has meant checks on goods arriving in NI from the rest of the UK – something the DUP objects to and Mr Johnson promised in 2019 would not happen.
The EU appears to have largely rejected efforts by Ms Truss to negotiate the protocol, with one diplomat describing her latest attempt as “dead on arrival” according to Irish paper RTE.
Writing for Spiked, Graham Gudgin highlighted the work of Prosperity UK, which set up the Alternative Arrangements Commission.
Headed by MPs Greg Hands and Nicky Morgan, the commission outlined a range of technical solutions to the protocol, that would be able to provide an essentially invisible land border in Ireland that would completely nullify the need for such a border in the Irish Sea.
These solutions largely focused on electronic data-sharing, including the electronic tracking of consignments or even of individual boxes.
Based on a 2018 report written for the European Parliament by Lars Karlsson, Smart Border 2.0, the solutions appear to have been ignored by the EU, which continues to say there is no answer to the problem.
They were also not included in the UK government’s negotiation.
Brussels ambassador to London, Joao Vale de Almeida, said no “credible alternative” to the protocol had been identified, despite the presence of Mr Karlsson’s report.
Mr Vale De Almeida warned that Ms Truss’ proposed unilateral action to override it could “nix” the agreement altogether.
Speaking in Westminster, he said the EU has “low levels of trust” in the UK.
Mr Vale de Almeida added that the EU would be the “last ones” to “turn off the lights”.
Mr Karlsson was met with criticism when he presented his report to the House of Commons Northern Ireland Affairs Select Committee for not having visited the Irish border while working on the report, and for the fact that no non-physical border had ever been in operation in the world.
Mr Gudgin said: “The Irish border could have been used by the EU as an opportunity to introduce a fully electronic system, but it rejected even the advice of its own experts.
“Instead, it successfully pushed for a conventional customs border which, completely unconventionally, would be inside the territory of a neighbouring sovereign state.
“Given the fragile state of Unionist sensibilities, the resulting protocol was never likely to be sustainable and will now have to be replaced.
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“It is just a matter of time before the EU accepts that the game is up and that new arrangements are needed.”
Northern Ireland MPs have also expressed their frustration.
After a meeting with the Irish Premier, Sir Jeffrey Donaldson, leader of the Democratic Unionist Party, said the protocol needed “fundamental change”, adding that “nothing short of that will suffice”.
He said: “We spelt it out very clearly to him the problems with the protocol, the harm it is doing to Northern Ireland and that we need a solution, we need decisive action to deal with these problems.
“We are not interested in a sticking plaster approach, or tinkering around the edges, it has to be fundamental change which respects Northern Ireland’s place within the UK internal market and nothing short of that will suffice.”
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