UK and EU strike customs deal to end wrangling over Northern Ireland

Britain and the European Union ‘have struck a customs deal which could end post-Brexit wrangling over Northern Ireland’

  • The deal would avoid need for checks on products destined for Northern Ireland
  • The proposed deal comes three years to the day since the UK formally left the EU

The UK and European Union have struck a customs deal that could end years of wrangling over trade in Northern Ireland.

The EU has accepted a proposal that would avoid the need for routine checks on products destined for Northern Ireland, The Times reported.

The proposed customs deal, which comes exactly three years to the day since the UK formally left the EU, would end the post-Brexit deadlock. It would also end the much-disputed Northern Ireland protocol which came into effect in January 2021.

Brussels has also accepted that the European Courts of Justice would only rule on Northern Ireland issues if it was first referred to by courts in the province. 

The proposed customs deal, which comes exactly three years to the day since the UK formally left the EU, would end the post-Brexit deadlock

Both sides are continuing to hammer out specific details of a veterinary checks deal, The Times said.

It also reported that a portion of the customs deal was set to be announced earlier this year but was retracted at the last minute. One source said this was because the EU was concerned Rishi Sunak would not be able to sell the deal to some of those in his party, nor the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP). Another source suggested that the Prime Minister held back as he favoured announcing the deal in full.

Three years after Britain formally left the EU, both sides have been discussing how to implement post-Brexit arrangements on the largely open border between Northern Ireland and EU member state Ireland.

In terms of the practicality of the proposed deal, it is thought that there will be red and green lanes. Goods concluding their journey in Northern Ireland will be filled through without routine checks, while goods headed for the Republic of Ireland via Northern Ireland will undergo customs checks. 

Goods vehicles are checked as they arrive at the port of Larne harbour on January 17, 2023 in Larne, Northern Ireland

The EU reportedly made significant concessions when it came to issues like the reach of the European Courts of Justice.

The Times reported a source as saying: ‘This is a critical issue of sovereignty and that will remain with the UK.’

Another said: ‘The EU has moved a lot from its original position. This deal won’t delight anyone but the hope is it satisfies everyone enough.’

Both the UK and EU will continue to bash out another long term deal on issues like meat, produce, and live animal exportation to Northern Ireland.

The Times also quoted a senior British government source as saying the parameters of an overall deal were in place and it was up to Sunak to decide whether to sign it off.

After months of tensions between London, Brussels, Belfast and Dublin, the dispute over the Northern Ireland Protocol would end with the proposed deal.

There was ‘strong agreement’ within government that the dispute over the Northern Ireland Protocol needed to end. A senior government source told the Times: ‘The mood music has completely changed in that both sides have been looking to go as far as they can to compromise to make this work, That hasn’t been the old point scoring seen in the past.’

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