So. This week's exam question: "Can the Northern Ireland Brexit protocol survive?"

There's an easy answer and a harder one - a short thread after a big week for NI & #Brexit and a potentially bigger one to come. /1…
The easy answer is that the Protocol has to survive - not least because there isn't any obvious alternative to it, and ultimately no appetite to find one in Brussels, London or Dublin. That doesn't mean it going to be easy now... /2
The Protocol - lest we forget, which the EU seemed to last Friday - is there to prevent a return to a hard border on the Island of Ireland, and if the first month of operation of the Irish Sea border shows, that border needs to be between GB & NI. /3
Of course, the hardness of that Irish Sea border reflects @BorisJohnson decision to push for the hardest of Brexits - leaving the Customs Union and Single Market - and then, as @hayward_katy observes foster and fuel delusions that it wasn't there /4
@BorisJohnson @hayward_katy But it is there and - as we've seen in the first month of its application (and only partial application thanks to grace periods) - it is a headache. But not as @MichaelAodhan says a totally insurmountable one. "We are coping" he says - but we need a) time b) simplifications /5
@BorisJohnson @hayward_katy @MichaelAodhan It's worth recalling at this point that the UK - despite the threat of law-breaking in Internal Market Bill - did ultimately sign up to a full-fat border. It tried in negotiations to limit it. It applied for example for a 'Retail Movement Scheme' but the EU refused/6
@BorisJohnson @hayward_katy @MichaelAodhan So the reality is that mythical package of sausages will have export health declaration, be lodged in TRACES-NT, have customs import declaration and (at least until 6 month derogation expires) it can go chilled, not frozen. Now the UK wants that derogation to be permanent. /7
@BorisJohnson @hayward_katy @MichaelAodhan This might seem like arcane stuff, but the sausage example provides a window into the differing attitudes in London and Brussels - where there is a gap that urgently needs to be bridged/8
@BorisJohnson @hayward_katy @MichaelAodhan The EU says it will be "flexible" but only "within the law" - and the law says 'third country' sausages must be frozen. SO the EU argues that the 'grace period' is their NOT to 'fix' this issue - but to give time for NI shops to find other sources (in NI or ROI) /9
@BorisJohnson @hayward_katy @MichaelAodhan The UK says, c'mon, if you keep treating this Irish Sea border like the Dover Calais border, this can't work. Northern Ireland has unique circumstances. We'll give you all that traceability outlined above, so can you *really* not make that derogation permanent? /10
@BorisJohnson @hayward_katy @MichaelAodhan Similarly with NI consumer wanting to order GB seeds or pot plants.

Or take a guide dog (now needs £200-worth of certificates and vaccines for each trip).

These things are dangerously rubbing noses in the Protocol. You're playing with fire you don't understand /11
@BorisJohnson @hayward_katy @MichaelAodhan As we all saw from the reaction to the Commission's clumsy toying with Article 16 (which fixes nothing as @AntonSpisak neatly explains in below thread) this entire arrangement can destablise very, very fast. That move released a genie from the bottle/12

@BorisJohnson @hayward_katy @MichaelAodhan @AntonSpisak It is already too late to get the @duponline to back the Protocol in any way, but recall that at the start of all this Arlene Foster went on the Marr show and talked about it as really an extension of old/existing checks at Larne. A window opened onto an uneasy equilibrium /13
@BorisJohnson @hayward_katy @MichaelAodhan @AntonSpisak @duponline Hopefully that can be restored - the centre ground needs to assert itself as @hayward_katy says and, as @MatthewOToole2 told me, much greater efforts need to be made to sell the benefits (for investment) of the Protocol which does give NI some dual access to UKIM and EUSM/14
@BorisJohnson @hayward_katy @MichaelAodhan @AntonSpisak @duponline @MatthewOToole2 The EU view is that @michaelgove letter setting out demands is "too much, too soon" and is - frankly - an opportunistic and over-stated reaction to what the @EU_Commission characterizes as slip-up, quickly corrected. /15
@BorisJohnson @hayward_katy @MichaelAodhan @AntonSpisak @duponline @MatthewOToole2 @michaelgove @EU_Commission But as I said, the genie is out of the bottle and the Commission (as its original A16 blunder shows) is in danger not 'getting' the problem here.

They are fed up with British threats; with Johnson's denials and dissembling, but the Irish Sea is NOT the Channel. /16
@BorisJohnson @hayward_katy @MichaelAodhan @AntonSpisak @duponline @MatthewOToole2 @michaelgove @EU_Commission Personally - as long time readers will know - I've always feared the Protocol. @theresa_may was right in my view that 'no British PM' should have signed up to divide their country. That would be reckless & selfish. But it is what happened. It is done. /17
@BorisJohnson @hayward_katy @MichaelAodhan @AntonSpisak @duponline @MatthewOToole2 @michaelgove @EU_Commission @theresa_may I sense on the UK side now, there is a real urgency with this. Having initially taken the 'its all teething problems' tack, they have lurched to hit the "urgent reset" button - and to me it's clear something needs to give. (And it will on EHCs from April 1, I think). /18
@BorisJohnson @hayward_katy @MichaelAodhan @AntonSpisak @duponline @MatthewOToole2 @michaelgove @EU_Commission @theresa_may There is a meeting next week with @michaelgove and @MarosSefcovic from which progress needs to be made - which is not impossible, since these are two of the levellest heads in this game. But the EU needs NOT to just read across from Dover-Calais situation and 'hold the line'. /19
@BorisJohnson @hayward_katy @MichaelAodhan @AntonSpisak @duponline @MatthewOToole2 @michaelgove @EU_Commission @theresa_may @MarosSefcovic Failure that precipitates a precipitous, unilateral UK move(s) would be a truly unhappy outcome...Dublin also needs to get this message through. Fingers crossed. Good weekend all. 20/ENDS

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6 Feb
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Retail groups backing @michaelgove calls for extension of grace periods for phasing in full export health controls... @MichaelAodhan of @the_brc says controls need to be "pragmatic" and over a "workable timeframe". /1
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