The NI protocol

The Northern Ireland Protocol (NIP) of the Withdrawal Agreement signed by Boris Johnson after a partisan vote in the House of Commons, introduces a customs border in the Irish Sea between Northern Ireland and Great Britain. Now that the Unionists inc. the remaining paramilitary fronts have caught up with what the deal means, they are mightily unhappy. In July 2021, the Govt. proposed a second unilateral variation of the protocol although their real fear may have been the ending of the grace periods for the whole UK. Here are my notes on the NI protocol and the July Command Paper.

  1. Brexit deal: the Northern Ireland protocol, an explainer, from the IoG
  2. David Frost rewrites the NI protocol, by Graham Gudgin, who says,  “Either way, the seriousness of what has just happened has not really entered the public domain, either in the UK or in the EU. Although the paper talks in measured tones of changing aspects of the Protocol, we should be no doubt that what is being proposed is a radically different set of arrangements,”
  3. Tear up Northern Ireland Protocol or risk return to violence, former first minister David Trimble warns, from the Indy 20 Feb 2021
  4. Brexit: DUP plans major legal challenge to Northern Ireland protocol, from the Irish Times 21 Feb 2021
  5. Inspectors pulled from Brexit checks at Northern Ireland ports over threats, from Politico 2 Feb 2021
  6. https://yorkshirebylines.co.uk/frosts-command-plan-northern-ireland-protocol/, from Yorkshire Bylines
  7. US and EU watch closely as Frost prepares to set out plan for Northern Ireland, the Irish Examiner, 21 Jul 2021
  8. Why is the UK publishing a command paper on the Northern Ireland protocol, a Guardian Q&A, covers the proposal to remove the EU institution’s authority in customs enforcement, light touch checks and an “honesty box” approach; it also proposes a ‘standstill’ in the coming deadlines. Reuters also reports on the Command paper.
  9. Brexit: Von der Leyen rejects Boris Johnson bid to renegotiate Irish protocol, they say, “The UK’s attempt to renegotiate has exasperated EU decision-makers, who have already proposed changes to lessen the impact on Northern Irish citizens. Further tweaks remain possible, but the EU has ruled out a full-scale renegotiation.”
  10. Highwire Act: Why the Northern Ireland Protocol is the Ultimate Brexit Test, by Mike Buckley in Byline Times. It’s about the single market, and Switzerland, Ukraine and Norway would see any relaxation of the single market’s non tariff barriers to entry as a precedent that they would be happy to follow. Buckley concludes with comments on the UK’s international reputation and its impact on future trade deals.
  11. https://chrisgreybrexitblog.blogspot.com/2021/07/articles-of-faith.html … “, dullards like Iain Duncan Smith say (£) that the NIP was “always seen by both sides as a temporary solution”. This is a flat-out falsehood. Unlike May’s ‘backstop’, this was a ‘frontstop’ agreement that existed permanently and independently of any trade agreement or of there being no trade agreement at all. The two were connected only to the extent that had the trade agreement been a ‘deeper’ one, then the nature of the Irish Sea border would have been correspondingly ‘thinner’ (e.g. in terms of the extensiveness of checks).
  12. Brexit: ready for the Liechtenstein gambit? by Richard North, identifies the rapid replacement of the NI/GB route with Eire/NI routes as a legitimate reason for invoking Article 16 i.e. the suspension of the NIP and points at circumstances where Liecthenstein obtained better terms by doing something similar.  It finishes woth, ‘The “oven ready” deal is going to look more like a Jurassic fossil before we are finished.’
  13. Phil at “A different bias”, a post called,”What’s Frost’s Brexit Protocol Plan Now?” They weren’t interested in detail, and plan to just criminalise smuggling.

The Command Paper, Northern Ireland Protocol: the way
forward, Section 4 is what the arguments are about.

The EU’s page on the UK-EU Trade and Co-operation treaty.


I am having discussions on whether there really is a customs border between Britain and NI. Legally,

Northern Ireland is part of the customs territory of the United Kingdom. It would be included in any future agreements with third countries,

and yet

For Northern Ireland–Republic of Ireland trade, the EU’s Union Customs Code (customs rules) apply and there would be no tariffs or restrictions.

Goods moving directly from Great Britain to Northern Ireland won’t be subject to a tariff unless the good is “at risk” of being moved into the EU afterwards. Likewise, goods from third countries entering Northern Ireland will be subject to the UK tariff, unless they are at risk of being moved to the EU.

For goods deemed “at risk”, the EU tariff will be applied. If the UK tariff is lower, and those goods are proved to have stayed in Northern Ireland, the UK can reimburse traders.

The Joint Committee will establish further conditions under which goods coming into Northern Ireland from Great Britain would have to pay the EU tariff.

https://www.instituteforgovernment.org.uk/explainers/brexit-deal-northern-ireland-protocol

  1. Trading and moving goods in and out of Northern-Ireland, from gov.uk
  2. Check if you can bring your goods into Northern Ireland from Great Britain without paying duty, from gov.uk
  3. Exporting goods to the EU, by the CBI

The UK and the EU agreed to zero tariff and zero quota trade on goods, meaning that businesses will not face costly tariffs. However, to qualify for tariff-free access, firms will need to ensure goods meet Rules of Origin requirements as set out in the treaty, ensuring these goods meet the ‘local’ qualification criteria.

The IFG, characterise May’s agreement as follows,

In the previous protocol, there would have been a customs union between Great Britain and the EU, with Northern Ireland in the EU’s customs territory. It means the whole of the UK and EU would have a common external tariff.

Now the whole of the UK will manage its own tariffs and will be able to sign agreements to lower them, which would include Northern Ireland.

In addition, the EU and the UK will be able to levy safeguard measures against each other and other countries in the event of unfair trade.

While this, Britain’s Brexit slow puncture, is a polemic, it’s good on explaining the non-tariff trade barriers between the UK and the EU.

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