Northern Ireland Protocol trade issues can be sorted quickly, US delegation says

Wed 25 May 2022
Posted by: Noelle McElhatton
Trade News

Trade issues arising from the Northern Ireland Protocol can be “ironed out quickly”, according to the US Congressman who is leading a delegation to Europe.

Richard Neal’s comments that it was “up to London to help us all find a solution” and that the dispute over Northern Ireland's post-Brexit trade arrangements was a “manufactured issue”.

Neal spoke after meeting Irish foreign minister Simon Coveney as part of his tour of Europe following White House concern about the state of Northern Ireland Protocol discussions.

“I have on this delegation people who are experts at trade and they also would confirm that they think these issues on the trade front, if that’s really the dispute, could be ironed out quickly,” he said.

Peace first

The Irish Times reports that Neal told the Irish Seanad (the upper house of the Irish parliament) that the “number one priority for the US” was “to ensure that the hard-won peace in Northern Ireland is preserved and reinforced”.

He is to meet with unionists, who oppose the protocol, in Northern Ireland tomorrow, reports the BBC.

Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) leader Doug Beattie, who is to meet Neal, said he will tell the delegation the “consent principle must apply equally to all communities”.

“The people of Northern Ireland did not have a voice in the design of the protocol,” Beattie said. “If they had, I am confident checks on goods moving to Northern Ireland from Great Britain as a final destination would never have been included in any trade deal with the EU.”

Legislation coming

The UK aims to introduce legislation to override parts of the protocol in the next few weeks.

Parliament is not sitting next week and officials in charge of legislation are eyeing the fortnight following 6 June , giving a six-week window for the bill to pass the House of Commons before the summer break from 20 July. 

Meanwhile, according to Politico, the government’s delay over bringing in new controls for imports from the EU until the end of 2023, has effectively “outsourced” post-Brexit border checks to the EU.

Going digital

As previously covered in the IOE&IT’s Daily Update, the government delayed checks on agri-food imports last month with the aim of introducing a system comprised largely of digital checks by the end of 2023.

Sam Lowe, director of trade at Flint Global, said that “the UK is effectively saying it trusts that products entering from the EU conform to UK requirements”, adding, “We’re outsourcing a large proportion of our import health regime to the EU.”

The move also risks the ire of non-EU nations who will have more onerous requirements to export to the UK, which could amount to discrimination under World Trade Organization rules, according to Nic Lockhart, a trade lawyer based in Geneva working for Sidley Austin.