The UK Government began a new overlap with the European Union after the Prime Minister
said he wanted to renegotiate parts of the Brexit deal that deal with a politically sensitive issue in Northern Ireland.
According to the government, the agreement, which came into force just a few months ago, affects trade between Northern Ireland and the rest of Britain. The EU ruled out a renegotiation of the deal on Wednesday, and the Biden administration is closely following the warning of any measures that threaten the long-Friday deal that brought peace to Ireland more than two decades ago.
Under the Brexit agreement, completed last December, special arrangements were made to avoid re-establishing the physical border between Northern Ireland, which is part of the United Kingdom, and its southern neighbor, a member of the EU, Ireland. The United Kingdom left the bloc in January 2020.
Arrangements, known as the protocol, saw the United Kingdom agree to customs and regulatory control of goods, including agricultural products, moving across the Irish Sea to Northern Ireland from the UK to prevent products made under UK law from leaking into Ireland and the EU internal market. There were exceptions for goods that were clearly intended to remain in Northern Ireland.
For months Britain and the EU have done Regarding the implementation of the Protocol, the United Kingdom argued that the EU strictly interpreted the agreement and denied the smooth access to Northern Ireland of some food, medicine and even dogs needed to help some visually impaired people in Northern Ireland.
Tensions over Northern Ireland have undermined UK and EU efforts to relaunch tense relations since Britain voted to resign from the bloc in 2016, diplomats on both sides say. It has also led to tensions, including protests and occasional violence in Northern Ireland, and the protocol opposes the largest pro-UK party, but broadly supports communities that support unity with Ireland and a growing number of voters who do not recognize either camp.
The proposals made by the British government on Wednesday call for a broad renegotiation of the agreement. Johnson has said, “It has already become clear that it is not possible to use these arrangements in a way that is maintained.”
The United Kingdom made a number of proposals, some of which were discussed and rejected during the protracted Brexit negotiations. They include a dual regulatory system in Northern Ireland that would allow products that meet British standards to be sold in the province without inspections, as long as they are labeled for sale in Northern Ireland only.
The United Kingdom would monitor the system, even if it gave the EU access to data to show that it has not been misused. The United Kingdom also wants to remove the role of EU courts in assessing whether the parties are implementing the protocol.
In order to negotiate a new agreement, the British government wants a standstill period during which EU legal action against the United Kingdom will be suspended. In return, the United Kingdom does not exercise any power under the agreement which would allow it to leave parts of the agreement.
The conflict over the protocol is likely to increase in September. At the end of that month, the additional periods that exempted products such as chilled meat from inspection when they crossed mainland Britain into Northern Ireland will expire. UK supermarket chains are warning that shops in Northern Ireland will be left without fresh food and Christmas products if grace periods end.
Maros Sefcovic, vice-president of the European Commission, who has been negotiating with the British government on the implementation of the agreement, said the EU was ready to continue discussions and seek “creative solutions within the framework of the protocol”.
“However, we do not agree to renegotiate the protocol,” he said, reiterating warnings from senior EU leaders.
A U.S. State Department spokesman said the United States supports joint efforts to resolve the problem, but urged both sides to refrain from unilateral action and to “negotiate within existing mechanisms.”
—Paul Hannon and William Mauldin contributed to this article.
Write Laurence Norman at firstname.lastname@example.org
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