• Sat. Oct 22nd, 2022

Post-Brexit inspections on goods entering Northern Ireland from Great Britain have been suspended amid concerns over the safety of officials.

Feb 3, 2021

FOREIGN AFFAIRS MINISTER Simon Coveney said calls to get rid of the Northern Ireland Protocol are completely unrealistic and that is not going to happen.
DUP leader Arlene Foster is expected to tell the British Prime Minister, in a telephone call this morning, why the protocol must go.
The protocol is at the centre of an argument between Ireland, Northern Ireland, the UK and the European Union following last weeks EU intervention on Article 16.
On Friday the EU had signalled its intention to trigger Article 16 of the protocol, a safeguard clause, to temporarily place export controls on this movement in respect of vaccines.
The European Commission later rowed back on those plans, but the move has caused tension, particularly with the Northern Ireland Executive. 
Speaking on RTÉs Morning Ireland today, Coveney said Ireland, the UK and the EU have a legal obligation in an international treaty to implement the protocol, and I think its also important to say that the protocol isnt primarily the problem here.
The problem is caused by Brexit, and the kind of Brexit that the British government pursued and insisted on, because there were alternatives that would have been much easier to implement, the EU wanted to share a customs union and single market with the UK, that would have meant no barriers to trade.
Some people are trying to rewrite history here the protocol itself is about solving problems that are caused by Brexit, trying to protect an all-island economy, prevent border infrastructure on the island, or tense political relationships on the island.
However Coveney did concede there are elements in terms of implementation that are causing real problems.
I think what what senior politicians need to do now is look at ways in which pragmatism can be applied to the implementation of the protocol in the context of flexibility and grace periods where appropriate, but it has to be done within the context of the protocol itself, because we all have a legal obligation now in international law to implement the protocol and ensure that the protections that it provides are in place.
Coveney said the EUs actions on Friday have made the situation a lot worse.
And while that decision was reversed, of course, and wouldnt have happened at all if there had been consultation, it certainly has triggered a political response in Northern Ireland which makes implementation of the protocol even more difficult.
When you have a significant minority of politicians in Northern Ireland now actively saying that they will not cooperate with the protocol then that poses real difficulties.
Added to that you have totally unacceptable threats to people working in Larne and Belfast ports I think the PSNI has provided clarification that this isnt a wider loyalist paramilitary issue but it certainly is still intimidating for for workers there. And thats something that needs to be condemned.
Lecturing everyone
Also speaking to Morning Ireland, the DUPs Nigel Dodds said that there is a recognition across the board to the damage thats been done as a result of the EUs moves.
He said that the European Union had spent time lecturing everyone on the importance of Northern Ireland, but had decided to set that aside at the first opportunity.
Dodds said that it was welcome to hear the likes of Coveney and ministers in Westminster acknowledging problems with the protocol.
I welcome the change of tone, he said.
There arent just teething problems. These are significant difficulties. Its incumbent on the UK government to protect the internal market of Northern Ireland with the rest of the UK.
Crisis talks 
Britain and the EU are set for crunch talks with Northern Irelands leaders over mounting tensions.
Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove and European Commission vice president Maros Sefcovic will hold a virtual meeting with First Minister Arlene Foster and Deputy First Minister Michelle ONeill to discuss the ongoing furore over the protocol.
Physical inspections on goods entering the region from Great Britain, which are required under the protocol, have been suspended amid threats and intimidation of staff.
Police have insisted there is no evidence that loyalist paramilitaries are involved in the sinister campaign, instead blaming disgruntled individuals and small groups.
Yesterday, in another sign of heightened tensions in the region, a large group of masked men were seen walking around an area of east Belfast where the Ulster Volunteer Force exerts influence on the community.
Graffiti warning off inspectors has appeared close to ports in recent weeks. Police have stepped up patrols at the ports following the spate of intimidatory incidents.
Gove and Sefcovic chair the UK/EU joint committee tasked with implementation of the protocol. The meeting comes after British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said urgent action is needed to resolve outstanding problems.
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The protocol is a mechanism agreed by the UK and EU as part of the withdrawal talks to ensure a free-flowing Irish border.
It achieves that by moving regulatory and customs processes to the Irish Sea, focusing on the movement of goods between Great Britain and Northern Ireland.
The inspections and added bureaucracy are required because, under the protocol, Northern Ireland remains in the EU single market for goods and also applies EU customs rules at its ports.
Unionists and loyalists are deeply unhappy with the new arrangements, which came into force on 31 December, believing the protocol has created a barrier between the region and the rest of the UK, undermining the constitutional integrity of the Union.
Yesterday, the DUP announced a series of political moves aimed at undermining the protocol.
Its strategy includes opposing any protocol-related legislation at the Stormont Assembly and refusing to participate in any exchanges with the Irish government related to the operation of the protocol.
Contains reporting from Sean Murray and PA