Finally some Brexit progress, but will it be enough?

Michael Gove and European Commission Vice-President Maroš Šefčovič have reached an agreement 'in principle' on the Northern Ireland protocol. Credit: Michael Gove/Twitter

At last, some Brexit progress to report: a deal has been reached.

Not the big one - the trade deal - but on the Northern Ireland Protocol, which could possibly make it a bit easier for a trade deal to be done.

The Northern Ireland protocol is part of the Withdrawal Agreement signed between the UK and the EU in October last year, which confirmed Brexit.

Under the protocol, when the Brexit transition period ends on December 31, goods moving between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland will not need to be checked, meaning NI will continue to follow EU customs rules in order to avoid a hard border.

It also means that some goods moving between Great Britain and Northern Ireland will face checks.

This is due to happen regardless of whether the UK and the EU can agree a free trade deal.

The UK government however, announced earlier this year that they intended to override parts of the Withdrawal Agreement.

It came up with the Internal Market Bill, which contained clauses that allowed ministers to override the protocol, and in doing so - as the government itself admitted - break international law.

It went down extremely badly with the EU, and soured negotiations over a free trade deal.

Today’s agreement between Michael Gove and European Commission Vice-President Maroš Šefčovič means the government will withdraw those controversial clauses, with or without a trade deal.

We don’t yet know the details of how they’ve done it, that will be revealed on Wednesday, but it’s progress. The question is - how much?

It certainly does no harm ahead of Boris Johnson’s crunch meeting with Ursula von der Leyen as they try to get a deal over the line this week.

It removes an obstacle (albeit a small one in the context of this enormous trade agreement) and allows the government to show it is willing to move position.

It was also never a good look for the UK to legislate to break an international treaty, and will no doubt be welcomed by the incoming Biden administration in the US.