Gove to present details of deal with EU on Northern Ireland protocol

Minister to tell MPs why government withdrew treaty-breaking clauses from Bill

Michael Gove: said the agreement would ensure that businesses in Northern Ireland would be able to trade freely with the EU and the rest of the UK from January 1st. Photograph: Andy Rain/EPA

Britain's cabinet office minister Michael Gove will outline to MPs on Wednesday the details of an agreement with the European Union on how to implement the Northern Ireland protocol.

The British government said it would withdraw treaty-breaking clauses from the Internal Market Bill and pull similar clauses from a forthcoming taxation Bill after Mr Gove and European Commission vice-president Maros Sevcovic said they had reached agreement.

“Following intensive and constructive work over the past weeks by the EU and the UK, the two co-chairs can now announce their agreement in principle on all issues, in particular with regard to the protocol on Ireland and Northern Ireland. An agreement in principle has been found in the following areas, amongst others: Border Control Posts/Entry Points specifically for checks on animals, plants and derived products, export declarations, the supply of medicines, the supply of chilled meats, and other food products to supermarkets, and a clarification on the application of state aid under the terms of the protocol,” Mr Gove said in a statement.

“In view of these mutually agreed solutions, the UK will withdraw clauses 44, 45 and 47 of the UK Internal Market Bill, and not introduce any similar provisions in the taxation Bill.”


EU presence

The two sides have agreed to an EU presence in Northern Ireland to oversee how British officials administer checks on goods coming from Great Britain and elsewhere.

The British government said they had agreed on how to determine criteria for goods to be considered “not at risk” of entering the EU when moving from Great Britain to Northern Ireland, the exemption of agricultural and fish subsidies from State aid rules, and the finalisation of the list of chairpersons of the arbitration panel for a dispute settlement mechanism.

Mr Gove said the agreement would ensure that businesses in Northern Ireland would be able to trade freely with the EU and the rest of the United Kingdom from January 1st.

“That means that businesses in Northern Ireland have the opportunity to enjoy the best of both worlds; access the the European single market, because there’s no infrastructure on the Island of Ireland, and at the same time unfettered access to the rest of the UK market,” he told ITV News.

“Over the course of the last 22 years we’ve seen real gains made through the peace process and it was the aim of all the political parties in Northern Ireland and the first minister and deputy first minster from unionist and republican traditions, to ensure that we could safeguard the peace process but also make sure that Northern Ireland’s businesses could benefit from the strength of the UK internal market.”

The agreement must be formalised in a full meeting of the joint committee later this month but Mr Gove made clear that the treaty-breaking clauses would be removed from the Internal Market Bill when it returns to the House of Lords this week and not restored by the Commons.

A taxation Bill due to be introduced in parliament on Wednesday will not now include similar clauses which would allow ministers to override the withdrawal agreement and the Northern Ireland protocol.

Denis Staunton

Denis Staunton

Denis Staunton is China Correspondent of The Irish Times