Sir David Frost, the UK minister responsible for Brexit and Northern Ireland (NI) Secretary Brandon Lewis, presented a 28-page command paper to parliament on Wednesday afternoon outlining major changes to the Northern Ireland Protocol.
The paper details a plan to remove checks on goods travelling from Britain for use in Northern Ireland only and calls on the EU to “join us in an intensive process that resolves these issues” around the framework the UK proposes.
The paper discusses how Article 16 could be used to suspend the protocol, but has chosen not to do so at present.
The protocol was designed to keep seamless trade on the island of Ireland when the UK left the EU, and while that has been achieved, it has required the administration of EU border controls at NI ports.
This has proved politically controversial and a huge administrative burden on authorities.
This is because EU border controls are designed for major cargo consignments that are typically involved in international trade.
However, with NI being part of the UK, a huge element of goods entering from Britain are small consignments.
These require the exact same controls as full containers and for animal and plant products in particular, it means that it is impractical to service Northern Irish stores from distribution centres in Britain.
The UK paper proposes withdrawing these checks and procedures for goods that will be used only within Northern Ireland, with checks only undertaken on goods destined for the Republic of Ireland that were transiting through NI.