Leo Varadkar says he ‘has regrets’ over Northern Ireland Protocol
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Britain and the European Union have reportedly come to an agreement that could pave the way to ending years of post-Brexit wrangling over Northern Ireland, a news report has claimed. A news report by The Times stated that Brussels has reportedly agreed to a plan that would avoid the need for routine checks on products destined for the province.
It also stated that the EU has conceded for the first time that the European Court of Justice could rule on issues relating to the province only if a case was referred by Northern Ireland courts.
Earlier, Brussels had insisted that the European Commission should be able to take cases straight to the court.
It marks a critical step towards ending the impasse over the Northern Ireland protocol, which has overshadowed relations with Europe since post-Brexit arrangements came into effect two years ago.
The Times understands that the customs element of the deal had been due to be announced in January but was pulled at the last minute.
A source told the publication: “Brussels had feared Rishi Sunak could not sell the complete package to the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) and Brexiteers in his own party.
“The UK side said that Sunak wanted the whole deal ready to sign rather than announcing it in parts.”
One of the Government sources told The Times: “This is a critical issue of sovereignty and that will remain with the UK.”
Another added: “The EU has moved a lot from its original position.
“This deal won’t delight anyone but the hope is it satisfies everyone enough.”
According to the plan, the UK and EU would negotiate a separate long-term agreement covering exports of meat, live animals and other produce to Northern Ireland, with the UK agreeing to uphold EU veterinary standards on goods exported to the province.
One senior Government source revealed the parameters of the overall deal were in place and it was up to Sunak to decide whether to sign it off.
Downing Street insisted, however, that no agreement had been reached and “intensive scoping” was continuing.
The news report stated that while the customs element has been finalised, the exact role of the European court and details of the veterinary deal have yet to be finalised.
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One Government source said they believed that the deal met all seven tests laid down by the DUP. Others feared there was no possible deal that the DUP would sign up to.
The source told The Times: “We have to be prepared to say this is the best deal that can be done and we are going to push ahead even if the DUP reject it.”
Meanwhile, former UK PM Boris Johnson has urged people to “shrug off all this negativity and gloom-mongering” about Brexit, saying the opportunities offered by being outside the EU are “huge”.
In a video released on social media, he said: “Let’s remember the opportunities that lie ahead, and the vaccine rollout proves it.
“So, on Brexit day, as we look back at that vaccine rollout, let’s also look forward to all the other ways in which we can change our country and our economy for the better.”
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