Northern Ireland awaits solution to protocol problem

NORTH IRELAND BREXIT

Dublin, 30 Dec (EFE).- Northern Ireland closes 2021, the first year of Brexit, with grave doubts about the impact this divorce will have on the British province, where London and Brussels are expected to reach an agreement in 2022 to perfect the operation of the controversial Protocol for the region. .

This mechanism has kept the border between the two Irishmen open – the key to their economy and the peace process – but has imposed customs controls on goods arriving at Ulster from Great Britain (Scotland, Wales and England), with the burden of the new Bureaucracy causing product shortages. in the region and political tensions.

The UK and the European Union (EU) will now continue their contacts to discuss the solution proposed by Brussels, which poses a challenge to Britain’s new negotiator, Foreign Secretary Liz Truss, who must meet the demands of “Brexiter”, such as the Democratic Union Party of Northern Ireland ( DUP), and avoiding, at the same time, a sudden halt from negotiations that once again puts the specter of a barbaric Brexit on the table.

In his first statement after succeeding David Frost this month, Truss wanted to convey that there was a “continuation” in Britain’s position, as evidenced by the fact that he “deliberately mentioned” Article 16, a clause in the protocol that allows either party to unilaterally suspend some provisions they deem too dangerous, Katy Hayward, a professor at Queen’s University Belfast, explained to Efe.

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“However, there has been a change in personality and, in addition, the position of the Brexit negotiator is now integrated with Foreign Affairs, which means there will be some adjustments in relations between London and Brussels,” the expert said.

He also believes Truss will show more of his “strength and capabilities” if he reaches a deal with the EU than through Article 16.

Frost, Hayward stresses, is “ready to activate it”, while Britain’s head of diplomacy may not want to, “start this mission by raising tensions.”

In his opinion, Frost had “made the impression in the end” that he was “softening his position” on Britain’s request to completely remove the EU Court of Justice (CJEU) from the agreement, one of the most difficult questions on the table and a “totem important” for former negotiators.

While London and Brussels continue to negotiate, Northern Irish parties are preparing for regional elections.

Although slated for next spring, they could be brought forward if the DUP leaves a government that shares power with the nationalists, as it threatens if there is no substantial change in protocol.

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“DUP feels a little exposed to Frost’s departure, as he assured them that he would be tough on the EU and that he would radically change the operation of the protocol or even eliminate it altogether,” Hayward said.

However, unions are not facing this election year from a strong position. They are weakened by the problems – real or perceived – caused by Brexit and by the internal rift caused by the leadership struggle last May.

In this context, Sinn Féin, the now-defunct former political wing of the IRA, could become, for the first time in the province’s history, the formation with the most votes and the DUP could even be overtaken by other trade union parties, according to some surveys.

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Indeed, 2021 has been the year of “two clear halves, like a football match,” said Stephen Kelly, CEO of Manufacturing Northern Ireland (MNI).

“Exporting businesses had a great year as they had access to the EU and UK internal markets. However, those who rely on supply chains with the UK have suffered from increased bureaucracy and control. One in five producers told us that their UK supplier no longer wants to ship products to Northern Ireland,” Kelly said.

The entrepreneur highlighted that exports from Northern Ireland to the south of the island grew 60% in the first nine months of the year compared to the same period in 2020, while exports from Ireland to the British provinces increased by 48% in the same period. Point.

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