Sir, – I write to set out the background to, and rationale for, the UK’s decision on March 3rd in relation to the Northern Ireland protocol.
The protocol is a unique solution to a unique and complex set of challenges. Its objective, which we strongly support, is to uphold the Belfast Agreement in all its elements, including by preventing a hard border on the island of Ireland, while protecting the place of Northern Ireland in the UK, including our customs territory and internal market.
In this context, the UK and EU agreed, crucially, that the way the protocol was applied “should impact as little as possible on the everyday life of communities” in Northern Ireland and Ireland.
We are committed to meeting our obligations under the protocol and to pragmatic and proportionate implementation, recognising that this involves respecting the East-West, as well as North-South dimensions, of the protocol itself and of the Belfast Agreement.
This balance is crucial in order to deliver cross-community support.
Already in January we were seeing challenges in the operation of the protocol.
The EU’s decision at the end of the month to invoke Article 16 significantly undermined cross-community confidence.
It is to seek to rebuild this confidence and to support the effective flow of goods between Northern Ireland and Great Britain that we are taking a series of strictly temporary operational steps, reflecting the reality on the ground that more time is needed for business to adapt to the significant changes that were agreed only in mid-December.
These measures are lawful and consistent with a progressive and good faith implementation of the protocol.
The purpose of these temporary measures is thus to stabilise the situation in Northern Ireland, and to limit the impact on the “everyday life of communities”.
The measures will ensure that we can pursue the necessary discussions with the EU without immediate deadlines or cliff edges, and in order that we can seek rapidly to agree “workable solutions on the ground”, as both sides envisaged last month. – Yours, etc,
Dublin 4 .