Tension has been raised over the Northern Ireland Protocol, which is a component of the 2020 Brexit agreement between the European Union and the former prime minister Boris Johnson.
The protocol, designed to prevent customs checks on goods entering the Republic of Ireland, ensures that Northern Ireland continues to adhere to some EU regulations while the rest of the UK does not.
The Northern Ireland Protocol Bill, which would grant the UK government the authority to unilaterally override portions of the protocol, was introduced by Mr. Johnson to the House of Commons in June 2022.
Mr. Johnson claimed he wanted to "fix" the protocol because it had been "upsetting the balance of the Belfast Good Friday Agreement" (the peace accord signed in 1998), which is a sharp contrast to what he said about it when he was negotiating it.
Although the protocol bill is currently on hold while the UK and the EU try to negotiate a new agreement, Mr. Johnson is reportedly of the opinion that dropping it would be a "great mistake.".
We examined a few of Mr. Johnson's assertions that he made prior to approving the NI protocol.
Mr. Johnson made this commitment in August 2020, and he has since made it several times.
However, as stated in the protocol, NI is not treated the same as the rest of the UK when it comes to the trade of goods. Therefore, the Irish Sea serves as a trade border.
Because of this, the DUP has adopted the catchphrase "No border in the Irish Sea.".
In response to a query regarding the cautions in the leaked Treasury document, Mr. Johnson stated this on Sky News in December 2019.
However, his denial of the document's main conclusions was at odds with the details of the NI deal.
The new EU-UK free trade agreement, which was signed in December 2020, eliminated the possibility of tariffs or taxes being imposed on many goods moving from the United Kingdom to Northern Ireland, for example. As a result, some parts of the Treasury document are now outdated.
However, it made it clear that a variety of administrative procedures, such as customs declarations, food safety inspections, security inspections, and regulatory checks on product standards, would affect trade between the UK and Northern Ireland.
The NI Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) reports that between 1 January 2021 and 20 March 2022, various checks (whether on documents or physical inspections) were made at NI ports on:.
- 157,349 food shipment shipments.
- 7,484 shipments of live animal products.
- 147 shipments had their entries refused.
And this despite a number of "grace periods" where the full application of EU regulations was temporarily suspended to give businesses time to adjust to the new way of doing business.
A businessman from Northern Ireland asked Mr. Johnson if he could inform his staff that they wouldn't need to fill out customs declarations for goods traveling from NI to GB. Johnson claimed that he could.
At the time, the protocol's terms implied that export declarations would need to be completed; at the time, Brexit Secretary Steve Barclay acknowledged this.
However, in later negotiations, the requirement for official NI-GB customs forms was dropped, meaning the prime minister's promise was fulfilled in this regard.
In response to a question in Parliament from Nigel Dodds of the DUP, who claimed that the protocol "drives a coach and horses through the Belfast Agreement" and urged Mr. Johnson to reconsider the proposal, Boris Johnson made this claim.
He recalled telling the DUP conference in 2018 that "no British Conservative government could or should sign up" to a deal involving regulatory checks and customs controls between GB and NI. He then reminded the prime minister of this statement.
The Good Friday Agreement, according to Mr. Johnson, requires that "things have to command cross-community support," he said on May 11, 2022 during a press conference in Sweden. It is obvious that the Northern Ireland Protocol does not accomplish that, so we must address it.
The protocol has a consent mechanism, which calls for a vote from the assembly members. In 2024, there will be the first consent vote.
Shortly after the deal's terms were agreed upon, Mr. Johnson made this assessment in the House of Commons and urged lawmakers to support it. .
An extensive list of EU laws, however, including those governing products of animal origin and the EU customs code, are listed in the protocol's annexes as being applicable to NI. .
At the time, the government's own impact assessment was released, and it was crystal clear. It stated that goods entering Northern Ireland, including those from Great Britain, would go through regulatory inspections in accordance with EU regulations. ".
And a few weeks later, a leaked internal Treasury document issued a warning that "customs declarations and documentary and physical checks. will seriously disrupt the economy of Northern Ireland.
It also called attention to possible constitutional ramifications, stating that Northern Ireland might be "symbolically separated" from the rest of the UK.
The NI Chambers of Commerce discovered that, one year after the changes took effect, a very high percentage of its members had experienced increases in the cost of goods and services as well as the time it took to transport those goods.
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