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  Northern Ireland: post-Brexit row

  13 Debates

Brussels is launching legal proceedings against the bill with which the British government aims to circumvent the Northern Ireland Protocol. EU Commission Vice-President Maroš Šefčovič has called the plans illegal and announced two new infringement proceedings as well as the reopening of a previous lawsuit. For London this could mean having to appear before the European Court of Justice and pay a fine.

After several unproductive telephone calls between London and Brussels the British government has, as it had threatened to do, introduced a bill that suspends certain parts of the Northern Ireland Protocol. Under the new legislation, a fast-track procedure will apply to goods entering Northern Ireland at customs check points between the two islands, and Northern Irish companies will also be able to choose whether to apply British or EU standards.

Local elections take place in the UK on Thursday. Northern Ireland will also elect a new regional parliament on the same day. Polls put the nationalist Sinn Féin party, which already won the elections in the Republic of Ireland in 2020, in the lead. Is the reunification of Northern Ireland and the Republic in sight?

The British government has approved a new regulation under which EU citizens who are not resident in Ireland will be required to apply for an Electronic Travel Authorisation (ETA) before crossing the border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. The government in Dublin has condemned the decision, pointing out that in practice it will lead to stricter border controls for Irish and Northern Irish citizens too - contrary to the long-standing Common Travel Area agreement.

The disputes between the UK and the EU as a result of Brexit are coming to a head. On Friday negotiators will once again meet to seek solutions for the controversial Northern Ireland protocol and the fishing dispute between London and Paris. Commentators see reasons for the two sides to stick to their guns but also for them to overcome their differences.

Brussels has offered to ease the customs controls that have been in place at the Irish Sea border since Brexit, saying it would waive those on goods explicitly destined for Northern Ireland, among other things. Britain's Brexit Minister David Frost had called for renegotiation of the Northern Ireland Protocol and threatened to suspend it entirely. Commentators advise Brussels to adopt a clear stance.

A new phase in the negotiations on post-Brexit arrangements for the internal Irish border begins on Tuesday. The UK's Brexit minister David Frost is to present a new proposal. Counterproposals from Brussels are expected on Wednesday. The UK is threatening to trigger Article 16, which would lead to the suspension of parts of the Northern Ireland Protocol.

For the fourth night in a row, Northern Ireland has been rocked by rioting. Over a hundred young people in west Belfast threw Molotov cocktails and stones at each other and the police, who responded by using water cannons. Heightened tensions between pro-British and pro-Irish forces since Brexit are not the only factor behind the clashes, commentators say.

The UK and the EU are currently not on good terms with each other. Several unresolved aspects of the post-Brexit agreement are causing additional problems in the dispute over Covid-19 vaccine shortages. Vaccine exports from the EU are being closely monitored and could be banned, while checks of goods at the border with Northern Ireland are proving highly contentious. Commentators call for de-escalation.

Just a month after the Brexit transition period ended, Northern Ireland is once again a bone of contention. First of all the EU had considered checks at the border of Ireland and Northern Ireland to prevent exports of the Astrazeneca vaccine from the EU. Then Brussels temporarily withdrew its inspectors from Northern Irish ports in response to threats of violence from pro-British unionists who oppose checks of shipments from the UK.

The British government's controversial strategies in the Brexit negotiations and the fight against the Covid-19 pandemic have rekindled aspirations for independence in Scotland and Northern Ireland. In August, for the first time a majority of the Scots said in a poll that they were in favour of independence. Commentators speculate on whether Boris Johnson could be the UK's gravedigger.

Since Boris Johnson took over as prime minister opposition to his hard Brexit course has been growing in Scotland and Northern Ireland. The Northern Irish Catholic nationalist party Sinn Féin has even brought up the possibility of reuniting Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland so that the former can remain in the EU. Irish commentators already envisage the emergence of a new state.

UK Prime Minister Theresa May travelled to Brussels with a proposed compromise for breaking the deadlock in the Brexit talks on Monday: Northern Ireland would receive a special status in order to prevent a hard border on the island. But under pressure from Northern Ireland's DUP Unionist party she was forced to withdraw the offer. Commentators see the prime minister in real trouble now.