Northern Ireland Protocol deal will meet DUP’s seven ‘red lines’, Downing Street to affirm
Officials in Downing Street have suggested that a soon-to-be-announced deal on the Northern Ireland Protocol will meet the seven tests of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP).
According to a report in The Telegraph, UK negotiators during talks in Brussels with European counterparts have agreed terms that would pass the tests outlined by the DUP.
Since 2021, the DUP has outlined seven tests that would determine its support for any new deal and return to powersharing arrangements in Northern Ireland. Some of the promises are technical, including those on “regulatory barriers” and “checks” on goods, whereas others are more open to interpretation, such as preserving the “letter and spirit” of the Good Friday Agreement.
Announcing the “seven tests” in 2021, DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson said: “The rigorous implementation of the protocol that some anti Brexit parties in Northern Ireland have called for would be bad for consumers and bad for business. It would be socially disruptive, economically ruinous and politically disastrous for Northern Ireland.
“As Lord Frost has repeatedly pointed out the Northern Ireland protocol in its present form is unsustainable and it needs to go”.
The new report for The Telegraph suggests that detailed briefings will now follow alongside the announcement of the deal – the terms of which are said to be with Rishi Sunak – over how each of seven red lines are met by the new terms of trade.
It has been reported for some time that talks over the NI Protocol are in their final stages, with European commission vice-president Maroš Šefčovič and foreign secretary James cleverly holding multiple meetings in recent weeks. After a recent call last week, Mr Šefčovič said talks had been “hard work” but that it was “time well invested”.
On Friday, Mr Cleverly said that any agreement must address the “full range of challenges”, insisting furthermore that government was working to heed unionist concerns.
One of the sticking points of the negotiations has been extent to which the European Court of Justice (ECJ) will remain the final arbiter on issues of EU law that arise in Northern Ireland. The EU has previously insisted that they want the ECJ to act as the final authority over issues arising from the new deal, a position which has been rejected by the UK government.
European diplomats have long warned that the negotiations are a “high-wire” act, a view which has recently been echoed publicly by the European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.
“You know the principle that everything is only negotiated at the very end – when you know what the result is and you give a final signature”, she said.
On Monday, The Telegraph reported that the new Brexit deal on trading terms in Northern Ireland will be announced in the next fortnight.
In full, the DUP’s seven tests are:
- Fulfil Article 6 of the Articles of Union, which requires that everyone in the United Kingdom is entitled to the same privileges.
- Avoid any diversion of trade.
- Not constitute a border in the Irish Sea.
- Give the people of Northern Ireland a say in the making of the laws that govern them.
- Result in “no checks on goods going from Northern Ireland to Great Britain or from Great Britain to Northern Ireland”.
- Ensure no new regulatory barriers develop between Northern Ireland and the rest of the United Kingdom unless agreed by the Northern Ireland Executive and Assembly.
- Preserve the letter and spirit of Northern Ireland’s constitutional guarantee requiring the consent of a majority of the people of Northern Ireland for any diminution in its status as part of the UK.