Britain, EU strike deal on Ireland border


U.K. agrees to drop clauses that breach Brexit withdrawal agreement

Britain said on Tuesday it would drop clauses in draft domestic legislation that breached the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement after it clinched a deal with the European Union over how to manage the Ireland-Northern Ireland border.

Michael Gove, one of Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s most senior Ministers, announced an “agreement in principle on all issues, in particular with regard to the Protocol on Ireland and Northern Ireland”.

Major breakthrough

The deal is separate to wider trade talks, which have yet to find a solution on how to manage nearly $1 trillion of annual trade between Britain and the EU, despite having just weeks until temporary arrangements expire.

But the agreement removes what was a major point of contention between Britain and the EU, with Brussels warning that no wider trade deal would be possible if London went through with its threat to unpick the exit treaty.

“I hope this may also provide some of the positive momentum necessary to instil confidence and trust and allow progress in the wider context of the future relationship negotiations,” Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney said.

U.S. President-Elect Joe Biden had also raised concerns about the clauses, casting doubt on British-U.S. trade deal talks, amid concerns that border controls could undermine Northern Ireland’s 1998 peace deal.

Tuesday’s deal will ensure that the Withdrawal Agreement is fully operational as of January 1, European Commission Vice-President Maros Sefcovic said.

The “Northern Ireland Protocol” was agreed as part of a divorce accord signed in January to prevent a hard border between Northern Ireland and EU member Ireland.

The agreement fills in some of the blanks left by the January treaty, covering issues such as what export declarations are needed, supply rules for medicines and food to supermarkets, and the process for border checks on animals and plants.

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