Northern Ireland news

Brexit: Northern Ireland proposals in UK-EU draft agreement

British government Brexit secretary David Davis and European Union chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier in Brussels
Brendan Hughes

ACCORDING to yesterday's draft agreement, UK and EU negotiators agree that a "backstop" solution to the Irish border should be included in legal text for Britain's withdrawal from the European Union, and will apply unless and until another solution is found.

The text suggests this arrangement could see Northern Ireland remain aligned with EU single market and customs union rules in order to avoid a hard border.

However, the document says there is "as yet no agreement on the right operational approach".

The 130-page text includes sections in green (signifying formal agreement, and only subject to technical legal revisions in the coming weeks); yellow (agreed as policy objectives with some clarifications required); and white (EU proposals on which there has been no agreement and discussions are continuing).

The detailed provisions include:

  • Protocol on Ireland/Northern Ireland (yellow): There will be "full alignment" with EU single market and customs union rules that support north-south cooperation, an all-island economy and the protection of the Good Friday Agreement, and this will apply "unless and until an alternative arrangement implementing another scenario is agreed". The EU and UK are "desiring to create a common regulatory area on the island of Ireland in order to safeguard north-south cooperation, the all-island economy, and protect the 1998 agreement".
  • Common Travel Area (green): The UK and the Republic can continue to make arrangements between themselves relating to the movement of persons between their territories, known as the Common Travel Area (CTA). The UK will ensure CTA operates without affecting the Republic's obligations under EU law.
  • Establishment of a common regulatory area (white): A "common regulatory area" comprising the EU and UK in respect of Northern Ireland is established. The common regulatory area shall "constitute an area without internal borders in which the free movement of goods is ensured and north-south cooperation protected".
  • Free movement of goods (white): Prohibiting customs duties on imports and exports between the EU and UK specific to Northern Ireland, including duties of a fiscal nature. The banning of restrictions on imports and exports between the EU and Northern Ireland. Internal taxation rules, and the application of EU law surrounding VAT and excise duties, agriculture, fisheries products and environmental protection to Northern Ireland.
  • Single electricity market (yellow): EU laws governing wholesale electricity markets shall apply to Northern Ireland.
  • State aid (yellow): EU laws on state aid shall apply to Northern Ireland, in relation to measures that affect trade between the north and the EU.

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