'New basis' for NI Protocol negotiations as UK and EU reach data sharing agreement

Tue 10 Jan 2023
Posted by: Phillip Adnett
Trade News

Map of Europe with UK and EU in different colours

Hopes have risen over a resolution for the Northern Ireland Protocol after the UK and EU reached a “new basis” for future discussions.

Importantly, an agreement was reached on data sharing between the two parties, which includes the providing of information on goods movements from GB to NI.

According to the BBC, EU chief negotiator Maros Šefčovič, UK foreign secretary James Cleverly and Northern Ireland secretary Chris Heaton-Harris met yesterday (9 January) ahead of the announcement.

Issues

The trio issued a joint statement saying that although “critical issues” needed to be discussed, an agreement had been reached on “the specific question of the EU’s access to UK IT systems.”

The matter was described as “a prerequisite to building trust and providing assurance.”

Access to monitoring of such cross-border trade has been a key EU requirement in the negotiations, as reported previously by the IOE&IT Daily Update.

Future negotiations

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

The FT reports that negotiations will resume on the 16 January with hopes that the UK and EU might enter a final negotiating “tunnel” to resolve lingering issues.

However, The Telegraph notes that thorny problems, such as the role of the European Court of Justice in any post-Brexit disputes, remain.

Reaction

Irish foreign affairs minister Micheál Martin welcomed the statement, saying he would be in Brussels later on for talks. UK prime minister Rishi Sunak also celebrated the agreement, calling it “an important first step.”

Reaction in Northern Ireland was mixed, with the republican SDLP and Sin Fein describing the news as positive and the unionist parties, the DUP and UUP, still appearing wary.

Cleverly has announced that he will visit Northern Ireland later in the week to discuss the new agreement, according to the BBC, whilst Heaton-Harris has previously invited members of the five main political parties to a roundtable discussion ahead of a 19 January deadline to call new Stormont elections.