In November 2018, the European Union (EU) and the United Kingdom (UK) agreed on the text of the Withdrawal Agreement, which outlines the terms of the UK`s departure from the EU. One of the most contentious issues during the negotiations was the question of how to maintain an open border between Ireland and Northern Ireland, which shares a land border with the Republic of Ireland.
The Protocol on Ireland/Northern Ireland is a legally binding part of the Withdrawal Agreement that seeks to address this issue. It is designed to ensure that there is no hard border on the island of Ireland, regardless of the future relationship between the UK and the EU.
The protocol states that Northern Ireland will remain aligned with a limited set of EU rules and regulations relating to goods, in order to avoid the need for checks and controls at the border. This `backstop` arrangement will only come into effect if a future trade agreement between the UK and the EU does not provide a satisfactory alternative solution to prevent the emergence of a hard border, or if no such agreement is reached within a specified period.
While the protocol has been welcomed by some as a way of maintaining peace and stability on the island of Ireland, it has also been criticized as potentially undermining the constitutional integrity of the UK. As part of the protocol, Northern Ireland will continue to be part of the UK`s customs territory, but will also be subject to EU customs rules for goods entering and leaving the country.
The protocol has been the subject of much political debate and speculation since its inclusion in the Withdrawal Agreement. Despite the agreement being ratified by both the UK and EU, it has yet to be fully implemented due to ongoing negotiations over the future relationship between the two entities.
In conclusion, the Protocol on Ireland/Northern Ireland is a crucial and complex part of the Withdrawal Agreement between the EU and UK. Its aims are to prevent the emergence of a hard border on the island of Ireland and maintain the peace process that has been established in the region. While it has been criticized by some, it is an important step towards ensuring a smooth and stable exit of the UK from the EU.