Hopes for an agreement on the NI Protocol rise after release of trade figures

Mon 5 Dec 2022
Posted by: Phillip Adnett
Trade News

Brexit - Northern Ireland protocol

Hopes are rising of a breakthrough on the Northern Ireland Protocol, after the release of trade figures from a live government database seen as crucial to satisfying EU concerns over the protocol.

The statistics, which showed that 85% of goods entering NI from GB stay in the region, come from initial EU analysis of a new HMRC database, the EU Access system, that tracked the movement of one million goods crossing the Irish Sea in 2021.

As reported previously by the IOE&IT Daily Update, the live database was being described as ‘key’ to any deal.

Tests

EU officials have been testing the database, which provides real-time customs and commercial data, since 7 November.

The UK hopes it will allow the EU to monitor trade between Great Britain and Northern Ireland and reassure them that systems are in place to prevent smuggling into the Republic and the EU, reports The Guardian.

Brussels had previously launched infringement actions over a lack of data-sharing on the NI border.

Where there’s a will…

Last week, European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen said she was “very confident” an agreement could be reached if the UK was willing.

She suggested that relations had improved with Rishi Sunak as prime minister during a visit to Ireland, reports The Times.

The EU and UK are engaged in technical talks to reduce checks on goods crossing from Britain to Northern Ireland and hope to strike a deal before the 20th anniversary of the Good Friday agreement in April.

However, von der Leyen returned to the EU’s red lines insisting that “the consequences of Brexit and the kind of Brexit chosen by the UK cannot be removed entirely”, reports Sky News.

“The solutions we find must ensure that the single market continues to function in Ireland and elsewhere in the EU,” she said.

Supreme court hearing

The Supreme Court has heard that there had been no constitutional change in the light of the protocol, reports the BBC.

A group of unionists, including Traditional Unionist Voice leader Jim Allister, Brexit Party MEP Ben Habib and former Labour MP Kate Hoey contend that the Protocol is incompatible with both the Act of Union of 1800 and the Northern Ireland Act 1988.

However, Tony McGleenan KC for the government said their arguments were “seriously overplayed” and that “the idea that there has been a de facto termination of the Union is not a tenable proposition”.

The case was rejected by a judge at the High Court in Belfast last year, who effectively ruled that the protocol has primacy over these other acts, reports ITV.

The hearing has concluded and a ruling will be issued at a later date.