I’ve written in @prospect_uk with a little radical idea for how to make the Northern Ireland Protocol work.

It’s radical because it requires both sides to compromise. But for a small price, it could deescalate tensions & make the protocol more stable. /1
The debate about sausages/chilled meat/pet passports/etc distracts from a more fundamental question that needs addressing:

Whether all goods produced in Great Britain but intended for sale *only* in Northern Ireland need checks upon arrival to NI. /2
I suggest not. There’s little risk of this kind of goods posing a threat to the integrity of the EU single market. And it is these goods which undermine the UK internal market, feed into the Unionist concerns, & lead to potentially unpredictable consequences on the ground. /3
In my view, checks in NI ports and airports should be waived for a special class of “sensitive goods” – goods which (a) are not at risk of moving into the single market via NI and (b) are exclusively intended for sale and consumption on the NI market. /4
In legal jargon, it means the EU agreeing to a principle of “mutual recognition” of UK domestic rules for the purposes of certain – not all! – sensitive goods produced in GB and sold and consumed in NI only.

Such as chilled meat, agricultural products, medicines, and so on. /5
The problem is that, without agreement on a core principle like this, the Protocol will remain a constant source of tension.

Every time GB doesn’t follow future EU legislative changes, or actively diverges from EU rules already on its statute, there will be new problems. /6
This recent example with a cancer medicine approved by the MHRA in GB but not allowed to be accessed by patients in NI gives an early indication of the inevitable problems that, without a solution like this, will keep cropping up all the time. /7

This is clearly deeply undesirable for everyone. Agreement on mutual recognition for sensitive goods would avoid this. /8
Why would this mean in practice?Some documentation would still be necessary to declare what goods were being moved, and fuller checks would still be required for those intended for onward movement to the EU. /9
It can be the job of the Joint UK-EU Committee to produce a list of these sensitive goods and keep updating that list according to its assessment of risk in situations when the circumstances materially change. /10
So when, for instance, the UK signs a new trade deal with another country with looser rules, or when London substantially diverges from EU-inherited rules on its statute book.

This would give the EU the ability to control what could enter the single market & act accordingly. /11
The advantages are several. This solution would:

1) Avoid checks on most goods crossing the Irish Sea from GB to NI;

2) Address problems arising from future regulatory divergence with Great Britain;

3) Keep UK internal market intact, addressing a major Unionist concern. /12
It’s true that it would require the EU to compromise. NI would require an exemption from EU law for the purpose of imports from GB intended for domestic consumption.

But the UK could (and should, IMO) provide assurances to the Commission and MSs with common governance. /13
New governance arrangements could include, for example:

(a) robust surveillance of business compliance,

(b) the Commission having access to relevant UK databases and systems, and

(c) active cooperation between UK and EU public health authorities. /14
This kind of compromise would provide a more durable solution; one which has some chance of cross-community support; and which avoids potentially dangerous consequences of “doing nothing”. /15
Right now, we’re in a situation where both sides are sticking to their guns, hoping that the other will eventually compromise.

This is unsustainable. Without a solution like this, the protocol will remain politically costly for both UK & EU. It doesn’t have to be this way. /Ends
Written in haste, whilst in a taxi. Sorry for all the typos

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More from @AntonSpisak

3 Jun
My piece in @Independent on the big question that much of Whitehall is desperately trying to figure out: now that Brexit is over, what do we do with the “sovereignty dividend”?

(Read beyond the headline, which isn’t mine)
I argue that the UK urgently needs a post-Brexit regulatory strategy and suggest three starting principles:

1. Minimise pointless divergence whenever it is not in the UK’s interests
2. Seek divergence from the EU only in areas with meaningful opportunities
Read 4 tweets
2 Jun
For the last few months I have been searching for the post-Brexit regulatory opportunities and today I have published a new @InstituteGC paper, together with David Britto, on what those opportunities may be.


(A thread)
During the Brexit negotiations, we were told, Britain's mastery of its own affairs – aka "regulatory sovereignty" – is what Brexit is all about.

Here is @DavidGHFrost making a case for it last year, in Brussels, before the EU trade talks began. no10media.blog.gov.uk/2020/02/17/dav…… /2
The UK defended this view in the talks but ended up paying a big price: a thin trade deal with the EU with next to no regulatory provisions, and a border for goods moving from Great Britain and N Ireland. It feels reasonable to ask what the "sovereignty dividend" actually is. /3
Read 23 tweets
21 May
How many of UK MPs who passed Johnson's oven-ready deal on 22 October 2019 actually read the government's own impact assessment of the deal?

Unlike the "we didn't know this, we couldn't expect that" rhetoric, it spells out the consequence of NI Protocol in crystal-clear terms.
An important reminder by the Johnson govt about the reality of regulatory sovereignty:

"All of the associated costs are uncertain and dependent on future decisions on domestic regulatory policy and the EU’s future acquis."
"The Protocol will require additional checks covering all products subject to SPS provisions (including all products of animal origin, and regulated plants and plant products) to ensure compliance with the Single Market’s SPS regulations."
Read 9 tweets
21 May
Since David Frost and Boris Johnson both claim that they didn’t know what the Protocol would imply, and how tricky it would be to make it work, why not publish the advice from officials and legal officers when the Withdrawal Agreement (incl Northern Ireland Protocol) was agreed?
If they truly stand by their words, of course there’s no reason to assume that the advice would contradict their claims about their lack of prior clarity about what the Protocol would entail in practice.
Exhibit A, published by No10, on 18 October 2019

Read 8 tweets
19 May
Great thread. Worth adding another dimension to all this: Australia’s ongoing FTA negotiations with the EU.

This read-across is especially important if the UK makes asks on agricultural, animal welfare and environmental standards (aka “Defra strategy”).

Why? (A thread)
Agricultural standards are also part of Australia’s EU FTA negotiations. They’re a way of conditioning market access with behind-the-border restrictions on the quality of agri-food which producers have to meet. /2
If the UK makes its concessions conditional on Australia’s compliance with certain baseline standards (as Defra appears to want to), the EU will ask Australia for the same – and more – arguing that access to the lucrative market of 450m consumers warrants higher protections. /3
Read 4 tweets
18 May
Day 2 of Lord Frost appearing before UK parliamentary select committees. Today before @LordsEUCom. I'll be posting some highlights in the thread below:
On establishing the institutional architecture of the TCA:

"There is no firm date when the meetings [of specialised committees] will happen" ... "these things will happen when they are useful"
On the parly scrutiny of the Brexit agreements:

"Both [treaties] are exceptional ... the Withdrawal Agmt has elements of the European Court of Justice and the direct effect and the TCA is unusually broad ... we need to find arrangements that reflect that"
Read 13 tweets

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