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UK-EU row over NI protocol escalates

Saeed Pourreza
Press TV, London

The UK has exited the EU but the ramifications of that decision continue to haunt it. This week, an escalation over the controversial Northern Ireland protocol, part of the Brexit divorce deal. While one side seeks an overhaul and is accused of violating an international agreement, the other is resisting any revisions. 

It was supposed to be seamless trading post-Brexit, but it doesn’t seem to be working. And the development of the past few days are a testament. The Northern Ireland protocol agreed upon by the UK and EU to avoid trade problems has become a problem itself. Now the UK is threatening to unilaterally suspend it.

The warning came from Brexit minister Lord Frost only days after the leader of Northern Ireland’s pro-UK ruling party warned of a new era of violence and instability if the protocol collapsed.

The UK has been pushing for a renegotiation of the protocol despite Prime Minister Johnson promising during Brexit negotiations that it wouldn’t impact the flow of goods to and from Northern Ireland.

A promise Boris Johnson hasn’t been able to keep. Instead, he’s announced grace-periods since January last year to delay the agreement’s full implementation.

Meanwhile the European Union, who threatened legal action but are yet to take it, say the UK made its bed and has to lie in it.

The agreement was forged to prevent a hard border between Northern Ireland and EU member republic of Ireland. Yet the two sides agreed that goods entering Northern Ireland from the rest of the UK had to be checked according to EU rules. That didn’t sit well with the pro-UK unionists.

The Northern Ireland protocol is part of international law. Any violation by the UK would dent international trust in the government here. The ongoing row over the protocol is yet another episode in the long Brexit saga, rekindling questions over whether or not the UK’s divorce from the single market was a good idea in the first place.

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