Brexit deal would resolve problems if it was actually being implemented, claims expert

Northern Ireland: Timmermans says 'solution is within reach'

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The Northern Ireland Protocol – agreed in the Brexit deal – is designed to avoid customs checks along the Irish border. But, trust was badly damaged in January when the EU moved to block the export of COVID-19 vaccines to Northern Ireland.

Tensions across Northern Ireland reached boiling point and the nation was rocked by street violence in April.

The British Government has demanded the terms of the protocol be renegotiated to ensure economic and social frictions developing in Northern Ireland are resolved.

The European Union has rejected demands from London for new talks, sparking threats from Brexit Minister Lord Frost to trigger Article 16 for the unilaterally safeguard the union.

However, Emeritus Professor Adrian Guelke from Queen’s University Belfast has said the Protocol cannot be claimed not to work as it has not been implemented yet.

He told “The Protocol has not been implemented and therefore it cannot be claimed not to work.

“What is so weird about this situation is people are arguing about what would happen if the Protocol was being applied.

“The Protocol is not being applied by anyone. The Protocol contains provisions and consultations if there are any problems.

“All the changes that were kind of proposed could have been made through the makings of the Protocol itself.

“I mean the Protocol is very flexible in terms of difficulties that may arise.”

He went on to say how he does not see many things that require resolving and there will be no difficulties in overcoming the problems.

Mr Guelke continued: “There is very little that requires resolving that I can see.

“The Protocol difficulties can be dealt with through the committees involved in the Protocol itself.

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“I don’t see huge difficulties in overcoming the problems.

“It is like the political symbolic problem that in a sense cannot be resolved because it is saying that perhaps Northern Ireland is different to the UK.”

The expert also said the EU were taken aback by the British Government attacking the Protocol, something which they agreed on during Brexit negotiations.

He said: “I think the EU made a mistake when they thought they could dismiss British concerns.

“They were taken by surprise by the fact that our Government would attack what they agreed and something the EU proposed itself as a way forward.

“Once the EU got over the shock of the Government attacking its own proposals, the EU has behaved quite sensibly over the Protocol.”

The Withdrawal Agreement the UK struck with Brussels in December 2020 came after over three years of negotiations marred by divisiveness overfishing, the role of the European Court of Justice (ECJ), and Northern Ireland.

The ECJ in particular remains a key point of friction as the court plays an important role in the resolution of disputes as part of the protocol.

London has demanded the ECJ’s position to be reviewed, if not entirely deprived of its position of legal oversight.

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