Published: Tue, 10 January 2023
Seán Kelly MEP and Leader of Fine Gael in the European Parliament, has welcomed the “positive mood music” on a possible EU-UK agreement on the Northern Ireland Protocol.
Speaking from Brussels, following a joint announcement from Commission Vice-President, Maroš Šefčovič, and UK foreign secretary, James Cleverly, that a way forward has been agreed on data sharing related to goods traveling from Great Britain to Northern Ireland, Kelly said: “an agreement on the sharing of customs data is a significant breakthrough in the negotiations, I am cautiously optimistic that a deal can be reached on the implementation of the Northern Ireland Protocol”.
“While this may seem like a technical point, once the EU is granted adequate access to UK customs databases, it can make a facts-based assessment on the risk of goods being smuggled into the Single Market via Northern Ireland.”, Kelly said.
“On foot of this, the EU may be in a position to grant greater flexibilities in the implementation of the Protocol, once we can be sure that the risks to the integrity of the Single Market are low.”
“It must be understood”, Kelly noted, “that the global trading environment is becoming increasingly fraught and the EU has a legitimate interest in protecting its Single Market. In addition, if the EU did not require any checks in the Irish Sea, it could leave itself open to legal challenges from other companies that feel their competitors in Northern Ireland have an unfair competitive advantage.”
“Access to clear and reliable customs data, as well as constructive and genuine engagement from both sides, are key building blocks to achieving a joint solution on post-Brexit trading arrangements for Northern Ireland” Kelly stated.
“We are seeing trust gradually being rebuilt on both sides of the Channel, that’s a very positive development. Let’s hope this continues.”
If a joint solution can be reached on the Protocol, the next challenge will be selling any agreement between the EU and UK negotiators to Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party, according to the Ireland South MEP. The DUP have refused to re-enter power-sharing government in Northern Ireland until their demands on the Protocol have been met.
“Nonetheless, I am cautiously optimistic that a deal can be found with sufficient flexibility and pragmatism to move past this paralysis, and that joint solutions that work for all communities in Northern Ireland can be found”, MEP Kelly added.