The US and the Northern Ireland Protocol: Time to Walk the Walk

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Publication Date May 2021
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Antony Blinken, the US secretary of state, has called on the UK to “prioritise political and economic stability” in Northern Ireland. This remark was made in the context of the difficulties being experienced in Northern Ireland as a result of Brexit and the UK’s decision to erect a customs and regulatory border within its own territory, so as to avoid a border on the island of Ireland (as per the Withdrawal Agreement’s Northern Ireland protocol). But paradoxically, it is the UK’s hope for a trade agreement with the United States, and America’s demand that any trade agreement requires the UK to diverge from EU food hygiene (sanitary and phytosanitary, SPS) rules, that is making it more difficult for the UK to mitigate the disruption in Northern Ireland by aligning its SPS regime with the EU’s. Here, the US could create political space for the UK, to the benefit of Northern Ireland, by either publicly removing divergence on food hygiene as a precondition for a trade deal with the UK, or ruling out a trade deal with the UK in this presidential term (which would coincide with the Protocol’s consent vote in 2024), and thus opening the door to temporary EU-UK SPS alignment.

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European Commission: Protocol on Ireland and Northern Ireland

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Cardiff EDC: 2018-: Protocol on Ireland and Northern Ireland in the context of the United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the European Union
CER Insight: Feb, 2021: It Takes Two to Tango : The EU and the UK Need to Work Together to Make the Northern Ireland Protocol Work

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