NI Protocol is ‘unsustainable’, says EU minister

Little progress is being made towards breaking the impasse with the EU on the customs procedures for goods travelling to Northern Ireland and time is running out, Brexit minister David Frost admitted on Wednesday. [EPA-EFE/OLIVIER HOSLET]

The Northern Ireland protocol is “unsustainable” and will need to be revised, Britain’s EU relations minister, David Frost, argued on Tuesday following a visit to the region.

“Businesses have gone to extraordinary efforts to make the current requirements work, but it is hard to see that the way the Protocol is currently operating can be sustainable for long,” said Frost following meetings with a number of business and community representatives in Northern Ireland about the implementation of the Protocol.

Frost also urged the EU to agree on a “common sense, risk-based approach that enables us to agree on a pragmatic way forward”.

The European Commission has meanwhile signalled that it is anxious to ensure that the Protocol as it is now will work, and will not reopen it.

The Protocol, which establishes customs checks on goods travelling from Britain to Northern Ireland to avoid the return of a hard border with the Republic of Ireland, was agreed by UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson and forms part of the Brexit agreement ratified by UK lawmakers. But it has always been deeply unpopular with Johnson’s governing Conservative party and the Northern Irish Unionist community.

Businesses, particularly in the agri-food sector, one of the province’s largest industries, have complained of major disruption to their supply chain and delays caused by the new bureaucratic requirements. (Benjamin Fox | EURACTIV.com)

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