Northern Ireland continues to cause tensions post Brexit, with the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) pressing for action if negotiations with the European Union do not present a solution for the complications with customs clearances surrounding the Northern Ireland Protocol.
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First Minister Paul Givan, of the DUP, has advised Liz Truss that a solution must be found for the Northern Ireland Protocol by 21st February, 2022. This date has been chosen as there is a meeting of the joint working committee scheduled on the withdrawal agreement.
Mr Givan stated:
“Liz Truss has indicated that she is making significant progress with the European Union an obviously 21 February is a very significant date in terms of what progress will have been made or not made.
I have emphasised the absolute critical nature of that progress being made, because the protocol is causing instability to these institutions, it is damaging our economy and this is having a real impact on Northern Ireland.
So, we need to see action taken by the U.K. Government if there isn’t an agreed outcome.”
Mr Givan followed up that. if a solution cannot be found by this date, DUP Agricultural Minister Edwin Poots would be giving the order to officials to stop inspections on goods.
When asked to comment, Liz Truss said that the U.K. Government would not intervene, and that it will be up to the Northern Ireland Executive to decide if Mr Poot’s orders would be followed or not.
What happens if the DUP stops checks in Northern Ireland?
The Republic of Ireland is inside the European Union, meaning that any goods coming from mainland United Kingdom require customs checks on arrival. Northern Ireland has been suspended from this, due to the NI Protocol facilitating checks on goods arriving from mainland U.K.
If the DUP suspend customs inspections at the border, then this will be in violation of the Brexit withdrawal agreement with the European Union.
The unilateral amendment or cancellation of part, or the whole, of the NI Protocol is permitted under Article 16 if it is to avoid economic, societal or environmental difficulties.
However, a compromise between the EU and the U.K. is the best solution to keep stability between the Republic of Ireland, Northern Ireland, the rest of the U.K., and the EU, which is why Ms Truss aims to find one by 21st February.