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UK and EU have 'fundamentally flawed' approach to NI protocol impasse – Lords

The House of Lords committee said that Northern Ireland risks becoming a “permanent casualty” of Brexit.

Image: Stefan Rousseau/PA

A UK HOUSE of Lords committee has found that both the United Kingdom and the European Union have taken a “fundamentally flawed” approach to finding solutions to the problems created by the Northern Ireland Protocol.

The freshly released report notes that first Brexit and then the Protocol have once again brought borders and questions of identity in Northern Ireland to the fore.

The committee found that a lack of clarity, transparency and readiness on the part of the UK and a lack of balance, understanding and flexibility on the part of the EU have prevented the two sides from finding a way out of the impasse.

“The clear message from our report and the evidence we have heard is that both the UK and the EU need to compromise in the interests of Northern Ireland,” the committee note.

That won’t be easy, but it is an absolute necessity that the UK and the EU should now work together urgently to identify solutions if Northern Ireland is not to become a permanent casualty of the Brexit process.

The report adds that there has been a serious deterioration in relations between London, Belfast, Dublin and Brussels.

Another of the report’s key findings was that trade between Britain and Northern Ireland has been significantly disrupted by the administrative costs to businesses of compliance with the Protocol.

This has created a risk that British businesses will withdraw from the Northern Ireland market.

The report noted particularly serious concerns about the impact on supply of medicines and medical products to Northern Ireland if steps are not taken to mitigate the situation.

The committee also found that there are also potential economic opportunities for Northern Ireland, in the form of dual access to UK and EU markets, North-South trade and foreign direct investment.

It added that a veterinary agreement on UK agri-food goods entering the single market would be one of the single most significant measures to unravel the problems with the Protocol.

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The committee said that a failure to find a compromise in this area would demonstrate that Northern Ireland’s political and economic stability is a lower priority for both the UK and the EU than maintaining their respective red lines.

“The tensions over the Protocol currently seem insoluble. Yet that was also true of the political situation during the Troubles,” the chairman of the Protocol committee, Lord Jay of Ewelme, said.

“But the peace process ultimately took root and flourished, through a process of time, patience, dialogue, and most of all trust. Those same qualities are now needed to address the problems that Brexit and the Protocol present,” he added.

Earlier this week, the European Commission paused its legal action against the UK over the implementation of the post-Brexit deal on Northern Ireland, in the hope that solutions to outstanding issues can be found.

About the author:

Céimin Burke

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