Momentum had been building for weeks towards a deal to ease trade controls introduced under the Northern Ireland Protocol.
The Prime Minister of Ireland has said that the UK and the EU are slowly moving towards concluding talks on revising post-Brexit trade rules for Northern Ireland.
Momentum has been building for weeks towards a deal to ease controls on trade introduced under the Northern Ireland Protocol – the arrangement agreed to avoid a hard border with EU member Ireland when the UK leaves the EU in 2020.
Politicians in British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s Conservative Party were asked to be in Parliament on Monday, in a sign that a deal could be imminent.
I think the talks about reforming the protocol are coming to an end. “Absolutely, the deal is not done yet, but I think we are slowly getting closer to a conclusion,” Leo Varadkar told reporters on Saturday.
“There is potential for agreement in the next few days but it is by no means guaranteed… There is still a gap to be filled,” Varadkar said, adding that there was ongoing engagement between the UK government and the European Commission.
The protocol, signed by former prime minister Boris Johnson in 2020, is designed to prevent hard borders by effectively keeping Northern Ireland in the EU’s single market.
But the treaty angered pro-British Unionists because of the trade barriers it created between British-administered Northern Ireland and the rest of the United Kingdom.
Varadkar, who played a key role when the protocol was agreed in 2019, encouraged politicians in London, Brussels and Northern Ireland to “go the extra mile” to help reach an agreement, saying the benefits would be “enormous”.
While a deal would put an end to the two-year standoff between the UK and the EU, Sunak could face a battle with pro-Brexit Conservative lawmakers and pro-British politicians from Northern Ireland to make the deal work.
According to The Times, the current offer on the table could mean a reformed protocol that would remove nearly all checks and most paperwork on goods crossing the Irish Sea.
Polls have consistently shown that a majority of Northern Irish voters – who opposed Brexit – support the idea of protocol. However, the county assembly and power-sharing government did not sit for a year due to union opposition.
Sunak promised the House of Commons would be able to “speak its mind” on his new protocol terms, which he hopes will see Northern Ireland’s largest unionist party, the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), restore power-sharing in the provincial parliament. On the outskirts of Belfast.
The DFU has issued seven tests to win its support for any deal, including addressing what it calls a “democratic deficit” in Northern Ireland which is subject to EU rules without having a say in it.
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