A note of hope. This Tuesday, Dublin considered it possible that before the end of the year a deal would be reached between the EU and the UK on Northern Ireland’s post-Brexit status, initially prompted by a deep political crisis in the British province and by tensions between London and the 27 .The British government’s desire to unilaterally reconsider the Northern Ireland Protocol negotiated at the time of Brexit has angered Brussels, which is only accepting accommodation and threatening commercial retaliation.
“We need to put this issue of protocol behind us in a way that respects an international treaty that has been signed,” Foreign Secretary Simon Coveney said. “I think it’s achievable by the end of the year,” he told reporters in Dublin. An agreement could be reached in the coming weeks with “political will”, the EU commissioner responsible for the matter, Maros Sefcovic, said on Monday.
The comments come as a summit bringing together London and Dublin is due to take place on Thursday in north-west England. Irish Prime Minister Micheal Martin will meet his British counterpart Rishi Sunak there, Simon Coveney said.
“A Little Clarity”
Relations between Ireland, an EU member state, and Britain, which will leave the Union in 2021, have been weighed down by the consequences of Brexit. Ireland has Britain’s only land border with the EU, but must remain open under the 1998 peace deal, which ended three decades of violence between mostly Protestant Unionists and mostly Republican Catholics (3,500 dead). To this end, the protocol keeps the province within the single European market. It therefore creates a de facto customs and regulatory border with the island of Great Britain, unacceptable to the Unionists, linked to the anchoring of the province in the United Kingdom.
For Simon Coveney, Thursday’s summit should allow Britain to bring “some clarity” on the Northern Ireland election. The local assembly has been paralyzed since February due to a boycott by the union members of the DUP, who are demanding the abandonment of the protocol, which is blocking the formation of a local executive.
Last week, the British government withdrew its threat to call a snap election in Northern Ireland in December. In London, Rishi Sunak’s government has indicated that the return of the Belfast Assembly and the protection of the 1998 agreement are their “top priority”.