Hard to know what to make of @pmdfoster story on the Internal Market Bill and the NI Protocol, except to say that Peter has been unfailingly accurate and painstakingly diligent in his long reporting on Brexit.
2/ The immediate response from my Irish sources are as follows: "not good" and that it is "clearly part of an overall stepping up of the noise by the UK", but that Michel Barnier's Task Force would want the UK to clarify things this week
3/ I won't indulge in the rampant speculation about UK tactics on the NI Protocol and whether the Internal Market Bill threat is designed to force the EU into some Spaghetti Western finale involving the WA, state aid and the kitchen sink...
4/ However, @rtenews is running another story tonight (online shortly) that London has for weeks been asking Dublin to intercede with the European Commission to be flexible on the NI Protocol and in return the UK would help Ireland on the land bridge issue
5/ The story is supported by senior sources in Dublin and London. Specifically, Irish officials have been asked if they could persuade the Commission to allow supermarket consignments going GB-NI to be checked at GB depots, rather than at NI ports
6/ Under the NI Protocol SPS checks and customs formalities for food and agrifood trade flows to supermarket chains have been the most sensitive politically, and will require infrastructure (Border Control Posts), vets, IT systems etc at NI ports
7/ London has also asked Dublin to persuade the Commission to allow checks and controls on live animals coming in from GB-NI to be done at abattoirs, and again, not at ports...
8/ In return, London has suggested it can make life easier for Irish trucks relying on the UK land bridge to bring exports from IE to the rest of the single market via Dover and other UK ports.
9/ The land bridge is an ongoing issue for Ireland as Irish trade flows from one part of the single market to another risk being entangled in long queues at Dover, esp if there is no deal...
10/ It's understood the UK has talked about "facilitations" for Irish trucks, although there are no details yet as to what they might look like...
11/ Dublin is sympathetic to the NI Protocol being implemented in as smooth and pragmatic way as possible, so long as EU law is respected... Senior European Commission officials are also trying to be helpful on the supermarkets issue, but so long as the rulebook is not thrown out
12/ However, Dublin has responded to UK overtures cautiously: Ireland has long resisted any bilateral fix with the UK (ever since the referendum). Secondly, Dublin does not want to get into a trade on something Ireland and the EU believe the UK has already signed up to
13/ Thirdly, getting into a parallel negotiation could detract from the UK getting with the obligations of the Protocol, which the EU has insisted must be complete by the end of Dec [ok, the FT story will blow all that up if true]
14/ Dublin is also wary about what "facilitations" London has in mind on the land bridge: some ideas might look good in theory, but how would they work in practice?
15/ For example, could Irish trucks really be fast-tracked, without enraging not just UK drivers, but also other European ones who are returning after dropping off or picking up loads...
16/ Of course, if the FT story does signal an intention by the UK govt to walk away from its obligations under the Protocol, then all this is academic... and we'll undoubtedly be back facing a hard border on the island of Ireland.
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