The European Union presented new proposals yesterday (October 13) for the Northern Ireland Protocol, which is part of the Brexit agreement. It aims to improve the work of the protocol, a point of contention between Brussels and London.

The Northern Ireland Protocol is part of an agreement concluded with Great Britain’s exit from the European Union. It was created to prevent the return of the difficult border between Northern Ireland and Ireland. It is recognized that the absence of such a border is essential to the continuation of the peace process in Northern Ireland.

The aim was also, inter alia, to protect the island’s common economy and the provisions of the 1998 Good Friday Agreement that ended the conflict in Northern Ireland.

However, the protocol establishes a customs border between Northern Ireland and the rest of the United Kingdom, which means that goods entering Northern Ireland from England, Scotland and Wales must be checked.

As presented by the Vice-President of the European Commission Marosza Szefczovicza According to the proposals, the number of inspections of goods entering Northern Ireland from the rest of Great Britain will be reduced by 80%, and the number of customs procedures by 50%.

Most food imports from the UK will not need to be inspected. Administrative procedures will also be reduced, and more products and companies will be exempted from customs duties. However, some British food products could still be banned in Northern Ireland.

Bossczovicz admitted that the protocol could create difficulties for companies in Northern Ireland, so the EU now wants to ease its arrangements. “Today’s proposals are a direct and sincere response to the concerns of the people of Northern Ireland,” he said.

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Britain expects ‘big changes’

The proposals were submitted the following day to the British Minister for EU Relations David Frost Suggest the adoption of a new protocol. One of the changes he is proposing is that any disputes relating to the protocol be settled by independent international arbitration, rather than by the Court of Justice of the European Union, as is the case today.

The UK government argues that the EU court cannot settle disputes to which the EU is a party. However, yesterday’s proposals Vice-President of the European Commission does not take into account such a change.

Frost emphasized that if Brussels rejected the change, the UK government would implement the art. 16 of the document, allowing its application to be suspended in justified cases.

Frost criticized the EU for “not always looking as if it wanted” Britain to succeed. “There is a widespread feeling in the UK that the EU has in fact tried to use Northern Ireland to encourage British political forces to reverse the referendum result or at least keep us in close relations with the EU,” he said.

He added that there was a perception that “the Protocol represents a moment of bypassing the EU (…)” and called on the EU to agree to a “fundamental change” in the rules governing trade with Northern Ireland after Brexit.

“We have a brief but real opportunity to offer a new deal to defuse the political crisis that is escalating both in Northern Ireland and between us,” he said, noting that it would be bad for Northern Ireland to stick to its position.

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“It is our responsibility to secure peace and prosperity in Northern Ireland, and this may include the use of Article 16 if necessary,” he warned.

A government spokesman in London said the EU proposals were now under scrutiny and the government would “consider them seriously and constructively”.