Brexit deal: Northern Ireland Protocol explained

27 February 2023, 12:15 | Updated: 27 February 2023, 12:34

Rishi Sunak alongside Irish border controls
Rishi Sunak has been working hard on negotiating a new NI protocol deal. Picture: Alamy

By Zoe Adams

What is the Northern Ireland protocol? And what is the latest with the Brexit deal? Here's everything you need to know about Rishi Sunak's latest proposals.

Prime Minsiter Rishi Sunak and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen look set to confirm a new Brexit deal between Great Britain and Northern Ireland today as they plan to adjust the original protocol.

The original Northern Ireland Protocol has continued to cause friction ever since the UK left the European Union in January 2020.

And now, Sunak and von der Leyen look poised to "negotiate a solution in the best interest of the people of Northern Ireland".

Read more: King Charles will meet Ursula von der Leyen 'for tea' before new Brexit deal announced

Read more: Rishi Sunak warned by Boris Johnson that dropping NI Protocol Bill would be 'great mistake'

So what is the Northern Ireland Protocol? And what is the new Brexit deal? Here's the latest in negotiations.

NI border control
NI Protocol is to ensure goods still follow the strict EU rules. Picture: Alamy

What is the Northern Ireland Protocol?

After Brexit, the UK and Northern Ireland left the EU but Ireland did not, meaning the transport of goods between Northern Ireland and Ireland went from easy to complicated.

The EU has strict rules on border checks on goods, especially on food such as milk and eggs, that arrive from non-EU countries.

On top of this, the land border is a sensitive issue in Ireland and there was a fear that by introducing cameras or posts on the border too check goods could lead to instability.

Therefore, at the time of Brexit, they introduced the Northern Ireland protocol which meant instead of checking goods at the Irish border, all checks would be made between Great Britain (England, Scotland and Wales) and Northern Ireland.

Inspections and document checks happen at Northern Ireland ports and it was also agreed in the protocol that Northern Ireland would continue to follow the EU's strict rules.

LBC: Caller wishes he could 'undo' voting for Brexit

What is the new Northern Ireland Brexit deal?

At present, the new Northern Ireland Protocol has not been confirmed but Rishi Sunak and the European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen look set to sign a deal on Monday, February 27.

The PM has proposed there should be different rules on the goods which cross from Great Britain for Northern Ireland to those that then travel up to Ireland in order to reduce the need for checks.

They have spoke of the following:

A green lane: This would be the journey for transported goods from trusted traders that would go to Northern Ireland only. These would be exempt from checks and custom controls.

A red lane: This would be the path for goods that are going to Ireland, and other EU countries, and will continue to face full checks and custom controls.

What has the EU said on the Northern Ireland Protocol?

On June 2022, the European Commission began legal action against the UK for not keeping to the protocol and called for further negotiations.

While they have made it clear they won't agree to a new deal, they have said they are willing to work on certain elements of the rules.

The UK and EU are promising to work quickly on all other issues between the two.

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