Biden's views on Northern Ireland discussed by Ann Widdecombe
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The rules for governing Northern Ireland’s post-Brexit trading relations have caused significant disruption for both sides, with additional red tape having a profound impact on the flow of goods from Britain to NI. There seems to be no endgame in sight, with unionists now believing the Republic of Ireland is switching up the gears to begin the process of reunification.
South of the border there have reportedly been talks of an “all-island economy” – viewed by some in the north as code for a united Ireland.
A fix to the protocol has been stalled by foot-dragging in Brussels, which has refused to give ground in the ongoing negotiations over the treaty.
Under the protocol, Northern Ireland continues to abide by many EU single market rules to prevent a hard border between the north and the south.
But the UK and the DUP find the checks in the Irish Sea a burden, and negotiator Lord Frost wants to overhaul the deal.
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The DUP wants any revised agreement to eradicate new checks and red tape on goods arriving from Britain, as well as the application of EU law and the role of the European Court of Justice in the province.
While the UK admits the changes it wants are substantial, Lord Frost has said he does not aim to “sweep away” all of the existing arrangements.
The UK will accept certain controls in the Irish Sea and that EU laws can still be valid, in certain circumstances, in Northern Ireland.
European Commission Vice-President Maros Sefcovic has ruled out accepting a renegotiation of the terms.
Sir Jeffrey Donaldson, the DUP leader, said he would collapse the Northern Ireland Assembly in a matter of “weeks” unless the Brexit treaty, which has created a customs border with Britain, is renegotiated.
He also announced the DUP’s immediate withdrawal from cross border institutions under the Good Friday Agreement.
Mr Johnson is now dealing with two impending crises over the protocol which could have severe ramifications for the UK.
The stakes for Britain have just become even more intense, with Joe Biden dropping heavy hints that he would not enter into a trade deal with Mr Johnson if he failed to protect the protocol.
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Mr Johnson has been vying for a direct trade deal between the US and the UK since he came to power in 2019, having held numerous meetings with former president Donald Trump.
But Mr Biden has shown little enthusiasm for such a deal, and is powerfully using the protocol as leverage.
The other issue for Mr Johnson resulting from the protocol is the distinct possibility that Sinn Fein will become the largest party in Stormont and the Dail, Ireland’s parliament, at the next elections.
This could spell disaster for Mr Johnson if a realignment of trade between the north and the Republic intensifies as a result of the protocol’s complications.
In the first four months of 2021, imports from Northern Ireland to the Republic increased by 60 percent and goods moving the other way increased by 40 percent.
Meanwhile, British exports to the Republic were down 20 percent in the same period, according to Ireland’s Central Statistics Office.
Unionists have warned that the longer the issue goes on, the more trade will turn in favour of the Republic.
Mr Sefcovic has called on all sides to “dial down the rhetoric” and “focus on the issues” at hand.
But Downing Street agrees with the DUP that the protocol “is simply not sustainable” in its current form.
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