Can the deadlock over the Northern Ireland protocol finally be broken?

Pressure is on as the 25th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement approaches, says Sean O’Grady

Saturday 14 January 2023 09:31 GMT
An anti-Northern Ireland protocol sign close to the Port of Larne
An anti-Northern Ireland protocol sign close to the Port of Larne (PA Wire)

Why is the Northern Ireland protocol in the news again?

As with his tax status and health arrangements, Rishi Sunak has been reticent about what he got for Christmas. However, we can make an informed guess that one thing he would have liked Santa to bring was a solution to the Northern Ireland protocol. Clearly a way through this intractable problem remains elusive. Equally clearly, the prime minister does not want the row to sour trade relations with the EU or the Biden White House, and he has other priorities to be getting on with.

Ideally, he would like some sort of rebalancing before the 25th anniversary of the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement on 10 April, the restoration of devolved government, and a goodwill visit from the American president. It remains a tough challenge, yet there are signs of hope and of progress, and the EU-UK talks have picked up pace, even if the ones between the local parties in Northern Ireland remain in stalemate.

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