Centre for Union paper offers 'legitimate compromise' over Northern Ireland Protocol

Jamie Bryson co-authored the report which he says "sets out what will be acceptable and, more importantly making it clear what won't" be acceptable to unionists

A publication detailing a series of proposals aimed at resolving unionist concerns over the Northern Ireland Protocol has been described as a "legitimate compromise" for the EU to consider. 

That's according to co-author of the Centre for the Union paper, Jamie Bryson. 

He says the 80-page article "sets out what will be acceptable, and more importantly making it clear what won't" be acceptable to unionists. 

The Northern Ireland Protocol is a trade deal which was agreed between the UK and EU during Brexit negotiations. It was aimed at avoiding a border between Northern Ireland and the Republic.

However, it has put a border in the Irish Sea for some goods needing checks. That has angered unionists and led to the collapse of power sharing at Stormont.

The publication of the document comes as "cordial and constructive" talks were held in London on Monday between Foreign Secretary James Cleverly, Northern Ireland Secretary Chris Heaton-Harris and European Commission vice-president Maroš Šefčovič.

Both sides hailed an agreement in the area of data-sharing and EU access to British IT systems as a key step in resolving the row over the protocol.

Part of the Centre for the Union's publication proposes a UK Constitutional Bill which Jamie Bryson has said would "restore the supremacy of the Acts of Union and ensure the principle of consent operates as it was promised to unionism, to protect Northern Ireland's constitutional position". 

He added "there has to be an end to all EU law and Northern Ireland restored to a full part of the UK internal market rather than, as the High Court has said, Northern Ireland being more in the European Union than in the United Kingdom."

As for the suggestion that there could be an "EU tunnel", Mr Bryson said: "The EU tunnel is what the UK Government would do in terms ... you would have to opt into it on pain of criminal penalty and if you're exporting into the EU, you would have to comply with EU standards."

"In terms of extra checks, and if the EU weren't happy that that protected their single market, it would be up to them to use technological solutions to conduct checks on the land border," he added.

"So what that would effectively do is, both sides are giving a little bit here. The UK is creating a criminal penalty regime to require businesses in the UK to opt-in and ensure they are compliant with EU standards.

"That's a step that the UK is taking but the EU then, in order to ensure the UK internal market stays open, would have to say if they want extra compliance checks then it's for them to police their own single market and this would have the impact of keeping both the land border primarily open and avoiding any checks internally within the UK and it's a way that could satisfy everybody's identity and aspirations.

"The protocol works on the basis that you move what is essentially an international border to an internal UK border and that was never acceptable, so we don't shy away from that, there would have to be compliance checks if the EU want them.

"The UK don't want them, unionism is saying, we think the proposal for the EU tunnel underpinned by criminal penalties would be sufficient to protect the EU's single market but if the EU aren't satisfied then it's for them to protect their own single market.

"There's being good neighbours and looking out for each other and having neighbourhood watch but you don't lock your neighbours door for them, so that's a matter for the EU to police their own single market.

"I've been very open about my view from the outset, if there has to be a border and it's a choice between a border internally within the UK or along the international border then it should be where it belongs.

"We start from that position and we work backwards and I think this solution does this and presents a legitimate compromise which can be supported widely across unionism and hopefully will be taken seriously by the EU and Irish Government."

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