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Sunday, October 24, 2021

Brussels to offer new Brexit deal for Northern Ireland

The offer has been likened to the “max fac” plan proposed by Brexiteers but rejected by Brussels. It comes after Lord Frost, in a speech in Lisbon on Tuesday, said: “We will obviously consider [the EU proposals] seriously, fully, and positively. But – I repeat – if we are going to get to a solution we must, collectively, deliver significant change.”

The Brexit minister repeated his call for the oversight of the European Court of Justice (ECJ) of the implementation of EU law in Northern Ireland to be replaced with international arbitration modelled on the Brexit trade deal. 

He suggested an “entirely new” protocol was needed and that failure to overhaul the treaty would be a “historic misjudgment”. But EU sources warned that the British demand to remove the role of European judges was a red line and could cost Northern Ireland its access to the Single Market.

On Tuesday night, Leo Varadkar, the Irish deputy prime minister, said the British Government demand was “very hard to accept” and insisted the ECJ had to be the body that interpreted European law.

The deal on offer from Brussels could see the creation of  a “green lane” for goods entering Northern Ireland from Great Britain and a separate “red lane”, with more customs controls, for products intended to travel beyond the province.

The official said: “Instead of doing a form for every item in the truck, you will be able to do a form for the whole truck. One for the entire load. It is a very pragmatic solution.”

One diplomat likened the plan to the “maximum facilitation” strategy previously called for by Brexiteers, which employed technological solutions to minimise the need for physical checks. 

The diplomat stressed that the difference in the new deal was that it would use technology that exists now, whereas “max fac” was criticised in the EU for “magical thinking” because of its reliance on technology that had yet to be developed.

Lord Frost had reservations about granting Brussels access to the data on trade crossing the Irish Sea, but his commission counterpart, Maros Sefcovic, has agreed to limit the scope of accessible information.

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