Since the Northern Ireland Protocol went into effect at the beginning of 2021, tension has been present.
The Northern Ireland Assembly is unable to function due to disagreements over the protocol.
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has held talks in Belfast to try to win support from the political parties in Northern Ireland for the UK and European Union (EU)'s ongoing negotiations.
During the Brexit negotiations, a trading agreement known as the Northern Ireland Protocol was negotiated. It enables unchecked transportation of goods across the Irish land border.
Before the Brexit, it was simple to move goods across this border because both sides abided by EU regulations. Because Northern Ireland shares a land border with the Republic of Ireland, a member of the EU, special trading arrangements were required after the UK left the EU.
When certain products, like milk and eggs, arrive from non-EU nations, the EU enforces strict food regulations and demands border checks.
Due to the complicated political history of Northern Ireland, the land border is a contentious subject. As part of these checks, it was feared that border posts or cameras might cause unrest.
Protecting the Good Friday Agreement, the peace agreement for Northern Ireland, was deemed by the UK and the EU to be of the utmost importance.
So, as a component of the Brexit withdrawal agreement, both parties signed the Northern Ireland Protocol.
International law now incorporates it.
The protocol stipulated that any inspections and document checks would take place between Great Britain (England, Scotland, and Wales) and Northern Ireland rather than at the Irish border.
These take place in the ports of Northern Ireland.
Additionally, it was decided that Northern Ireland would keep up with EU regulations regarding product standards.
For goods imported into Northern Ireland from Great Britain, the government wants to establish red lanes and green lanes.
The . blue lane. would only be for reliable merchants shipping goods to Northern Ireland. These would not be subject to inspection or customs controls.
The . blue lane. would apply to goods heading to the EU as a whole and the Republic of Ireland. These would go through thorough inspections and customs controls.
tax laws. Changes would also be made. Currently, Northern Irish businesses adhere to EU regulations regarding VAT and state aid. Therefore, tax breaks and government assistance to businesses in Northern Ireland must adhere to EU-set restrictions.
The British government wants these restrictions lifted.
Additionally, it prefers an impartial tribunal to the European Court of Justice for the resolution of disputes involving the Northern Ireland Protocol.
Unionist organizations favor integrating Northern Ireland into the UK. They contend that creating a physical border across the Irish Sea threatens Northern Ireland's status as a member of the UK.
The DUP, the largest unionist party in Northern Ireland, has stated that it will not participate in the power-sharing government until its issues are addressed.
A new Northern Ireland government cannot be formed without the support of the DUP, despite the fact that Sinn Fein, a nationalist party that accepts the protocol, defeated it in the May 2022 elections.
The UK was sued on June 15 by the European Commission for violating the protocol, and the government was urged to resume talks.
The EU offered to work on the protocol's application but stated that it was not prepared to renegotiate the agreement.
- lowering product inspections and customs fees.
- the reduction of paperwork.
- loosening restrictions to allow the transatlantic shipment of chilled meats.
In October 2022, the UK and the EU resumed technical negotiations.
The two parties came to an understanding on the sharing of trade data in January 2023. In-depth information about the flow of goods from the United Kingdom to Northern Ireland will be available to the EU thanks to this access to the UK's IT systems.
In order to increase the likelihood of a deal being reached before the Good Friday Agreement's 25th anniversary in April, the UK and the EU declared they would "work swiftly" on other issues.