Folly! Gaping flaws in UK and EU status exposed as Liz Truss fights to scrap deal

The post-Brexit trading arrangements in Northern Ireland have proven to be a major bone of contention since Britain formally left the bloc on January 1, 2021. Both sides have been involved in tense talks over the implementation of the protocol, with the UK’s former Brexit minister Lord Frost insisting it is simply not working and pushing for large parts of its to be completely overhauled. The UK’s Foreign Secretary Liz Truss appears to have taken a very similar approach to the matter, as talks with her European Union counterpart Maros Sefcovic seemingly appearing to make any significant progress on the matter.

Looming over this all is the UK’s threat to trigger Article 16 of the protocol, which sets out the process for talking unilateral safeguard measures if either side concludes the deal is leading to serious practical problems or causing diversion of trade.

Those safeguards would amount to suspending parts if not all of the deal, but the EU has warned the UK against making such a move, sparking fears a major trade war could be in the offing.

As tensions mount, one Belfast News Letter reader has penned a letter exposing the gaping flaws in the status between the UK and EU over the controversial deal.

James Martin from Dromore in County Down claimed political parties the Alliance, Sinn Fein and the SDLP appear to have changed their position on the protocol.

He wrote supporters of that deal had insisted early problems with it were just “teething issues” and that Governments from both sides should simply press ahead with implementing it.

But Mr Martin warned having facilitated that, “its supporters no doubt now realise the full implications of their folly for us all”.

The reader explained: “Just one example is that VAT would be payable on the full cost of second-hand cars brought over from mainland UK, which could increase the cost of a typical car by around £2,000.

“A significant portion of second-hand cars in Northern Ireland are brought over, particularly from England.”

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He added: “Alliance are now seeking to change the sea border to a ‘dotted line down the Irish Sea’ whereas it appears to me that a ‘dotted line’ along the border with the Republic would have been a workable solution at the outset, with very little increased cost or inconvenience to the people of Northern Ireland.

“Alliance also appear to be insisting that cross-community consent, in the assembly, is not required for the protocol because (based on an opinion poll) the community accepts that such arrangements are necessary.

“So much for all the safeguards supposedly built into the Good Friday Agreement to ensure the interests of the whole community are protected.”

This comes with Ms Truss set to hold further crunch talks with EU counterpart Mr Sefcovic in Brussels today (Monday) as she looks to secure changes to rules governing post-Brexit trade in Northern Ireland.

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She will tell the European Commission vice president the two sides have a “shared responsibility” to find a solution to the Northern Ireland Protocol which protects “peace and stability” and works for all sides.

The UK’s Foreign Secretary told the Sunday Express: “Fundamentally this is about peace and stability in Northern Ireland. Whether you voted Leave or Remain, represent the UK or EU, the focus must be on protecting the Belfast Good Friday Agreement and fixing the protocol.

“That is my message in these negotiations.

“Rather than re-running past arguments, we need to focus on delivering for the people of Northern Ireland, finding practical solutions to problems on the ground and maintaining the integrity of the United Kingdom.

“I look forward to meeting Vice President Šefčovič again tomorrow to review progress.

“There is a deal to be done, and we need to make it happen.”

The meeting comes after Ms Truss last week warned the protocol is “failing on its own terms” and has “lost the consent of the Unionist community”.

She is worried “needless paperwork has put hundreds of businesses off trading within the United Kingdom” and insists that “only goods actually going to the European Union should face checks and processes”.

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