Boris Johnson’s error: ‘Rushed’ NI Protocol jeopardises ‘UK future as independent nation’

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Prime Minister Boris Johnson has caused a storm this week by announcing Downing Street intends to bring out new legislation which could contradict the withdrawal agreement, in particular its Northern Ireland Protocol clause. Mr Johnson and the then Taoiseach Leo Varadkar agreed upon the protocol last year. Their meeting was praised as an astonishing turn of events, as the Irish border had been a source of contention in the Brexit negotiations and it meant the withdrawal agreement could be signed at the very last minute

The protocol was meant to stop a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland — and hopefully prevent the return of violence there.

Unlike Britain, Northern Ireland would continue to follow the rules of the EU’s customs and single market, while still officially leaving the bloc along with the rest of the UK at the end of this year.

Even in the event of a no deal Brexit, a customs border would be set up down the Irish Sea.

However, this has caused confusion in recent months, with Mr Johnson even telling businessmen in Northern Ireland to chuck customs paperwork “in the bin”.

In a post published on the University of Sussex blog, associate fellow for the UK Trade Policy Observatory, Dr Anna Jerzewska explained: “It is worth remembering that the Protocol was drafted under time pressure and as a result, a number of elements were left to be decided at a later stage.”

However, she added: “That is not to say that the text is open to interpretation or renegotiation — simply that to implement it, certain details need to be clarified.”

She pointed out that while the protocol allows Northern Ireland to participate in UK-signed trade deals, it does not clarify if that would be the same for EU deals.

Dr Jerzewska continued: “If Northern Ireland could not benefit from the EU’s current trade deals, how would that be enforced?

“With no border controls between the EU and Northern Ireland and unfettered access from Northern Ireland to Great Britain, how could transhipments be prevented?”

The customs and trade consultant also suggested that there were a range of details which had been left undecided when the Protocol was first arranged — and which should be decided by No.10.

Not only was the Irish Sea border an unprecedented arrangement, but the Government said it would reimburse duties levied on goods brought into Northern Ireland — but for that to come into effect, Downing Street needs to explain the conditions and scope of reimbursements.

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Additionally, in May, the magazine TaxJournal claimed that it was not clear “the UK Government appreciated the full significance of the state aid provisions of the Northern Ireland Protocol when the agreement concluded”.

The Northern Ireland Protocol means the UK would have to follow EU state aids where any UK measure affects trade between Northern Ireland and the bloc.

The article added: “Looking ahead, the requirement to follow these rules will complicate any attempts by the UK to set up an independent WTO-style anti-subsidy regime in the future.”

Regaining autonomy is one of the main reasons Britain voted for Brexit in 2016, and so to compromise it would undermine leaving the EU.

Still, Mr Johnson has attempted to persuade Ireland to agree to changes in the Northern Ireland Protocol, in exchange for assistance with the land bridge.

Ireland has to use the UK to move its goods into the rest of the EU, and without a deal, these goods will have increased tariffs and major delays in getting to the main body of the bloc.

However, Professor of Economics, Kevin O’Rourke told that Ireland is unlikely to submit to Downing Street’s endeavour.

He said: “It’s in Ireland’s interests for all negotiations on such matters with the UK to be handled by the EU.

“A prerequisite for any negotiations will obviously be the UK’s respecting the legally binding obligations it has already signed up to.”

Mr Johnson has also rejected the EU’s offer to extend the transition period beyond December 31, and recently suggested that unless a deal can be reached by October 15, both sides should settle for no deal.

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