The UK and the European Union remain at a standstill over the implementation of the Northern Ireland Protocol despite the Brexit trade deal being formally approved by MEPs last week. Negotiators are hoping to fine-tune the protocol and ensure goods can travel with limited checks via Belfast. The controversial mechanism was created to prevent a hard border on the island of Ireland and ties Northern Ireland to the EU customs union and single market.
The protocol has been provisionally used since January and resulted in some disruption to trade flowing via Belfast.
The UK Government took unilateral action to extend grace periods and relaxed customs checks on products until October.
The EU argue the protocol should be implemented in full and have triggered legal action.
Brexiteer and former foreign policy adviser Ben Harris-Quinney has called for the Northern Ireland Protocol to be replaced by a niche piece of legislation already used by the EU.
The Chairman of the Bow Group think-tank has advocated the use of Article 349 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union.
The mechanism recognises the specific constraints of ‘outermost regions’ and take into account specific and economic needs of the country.
The Article is used in nine territories around the world – including the far more complex Canary Islands.
Mr Harris-Quinney said the legislation would move the de facto trade border between Northern Ireland and the rest of Great Britain, to Ireland and Europe.
He told Express.co.uk: “The Bow Group has long advocated for the use of the EU’s Article 349 for governance of trade in Ireland.
“The natural border for Ireland is between the EU and Ireland, not Ireland and Northern Ireland.
“The logistics of setting up border controls between Ireland and Northern Ireland or Northern Ireland and England are far more complicated and costly than doing so between the EU and the island of Ireland, but there is no reason why under Article 349 an overall streamlined trading environment cannot be created.”
The complex Brexit situation has contributed to significant political unrest amongst unionists in recent weeks and sparked violence on the streets in loyalist areas of Belfast.
DUP leader Arlene Foster, who has been at the helm throughout the past five years of Brexit talks, announced her intention to step down earlier this week.
Mr Harris-Quinney warned there could be more violence and economic damage if a solution is not found.
He added: “Arlene Foster has been forced out primarily due to her support for what most people in Northern Ireland, on all sides of the debate, now see as a bad settlement for Northern Ireland and Ireland.
“This is a very dangerous circumstance that means the status quo will not hold, and if a sensible and comprehensive solution is not presented the situation will continue to degrade with danger of economic damage at best, and serious violence at worst. “
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Brexit Minister Lord Frost this week told peers there are “significant differences” between the UK and EU on the situation in Northern Ireland.
He said: “Northern Ireland is fully part of this United Kingdom as indeed the protocol itself makes clear.
“The best way forward would be for the Commission to continue the dialogue they have begun with us in the hope that we can find ways to enable the protocol to be operated in a proportionate and pragmatic way.
“Those discussions are underway. There is some momentum in them, but unfortunately significant differences do remain and we will need to work those through in the weeks to come.”