Brief: Unanswered Questions in Northern Ireland

London and Brussels are discussing Northern Ireland again.

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Background: With Brexit, the United Kingdom is redefining its relationship with continental Europe. But Brexit also raised sensitive questions about the relationship between Northern Ireland and the rest of the U.K., and between Northern Ireland and the Irish republic. The protocol governing trade between Northern Ireland and Britain, part of the 2019 EU-U.K. Withdrawal Agreement, effectively erected trade barriers in the Irish Sea, aggravating many pro-British unionists in Northern Ireland. What Happened: U.K. Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove, co-chair of the joint committee overseeing implementation of the Withdrawal Agreement, sent a letter to his EU counterpart asking the European Union to extend the grace period for checks on goods until January 2023. The first of these grace periods is set to expire in March. U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson followed that with a threat to invoke an article in the protocol permitting a side to unilaterally suspend aspects of it. Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney said his government supports greater flexibility in cross-border trade and a longer grace period. This comes after Northern Ireland suspended some checks at major ports in the wake of threats from suspected unionist paramilitaries. Bottom Line: Brexit revived the Irish border question, which was only […]

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