One of the main achievements credited to British Prime Minister Boris Johnson since he was elected in December 2019 was that he got Brexit done.

Yet in NI, we know that to achieve that, he opted for a trade border within the UK down the Irish Sea.

The reality is that if it wasn’t for various grace periods, in particular relating to retail goods, that border would be a significantly greater obstacle than it is now.

The facts were made clear to the UK government at the time, and to suggest that it has been surprised at the level of checks since required is just ridiculous.

While the UK government is still talking about a negotiated solution to the NI protocol with the EU, it has also outlined potential domestic legislation to override parts of the agreement. That includes a new “green channel” where goods destined to stay in NI will be freed of any checks. Businesses will then be able to choose between meeting UK or EU standards in a dual regulatory regime.

The checks at NI ports could have been avoided if the UK had pursued a customs arrangement with the EU.

It all sounds good in theory, and it has been an argument consistently put by Agriculture Minister Edwin Poots. But it is understandable that EU member states might be hesitant given the UK attitude to new trade deals, where it seems to be willing to sell out on standards in return for cheap food.

The checks at NI ports could have been avoided if the UK had pursued a customs arrangement with the EU.

The next best alternative was a veterinary agreement that would align standards. The fact is, the UK government has rejected both amid concerns that it might limit the ability to strike these new trade deals.


However, the UK government position has been made so much easier by the failure of politicians at Stormont to come together and put forward solutions that would work for everyone in NI.

New UK trade deals offer little in terms of economics and nothing for farmers – they are all about symbolism and ideology, and that sums up so much of what Brexit has been about.

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