What is the EU’s ‘Northern Ireland Protocol’ and why is it sizzling now?
Yesterday an appointed but powerful EU Commissioner from the small country of Slovakia, representing the EU, gave a press conference in London following his meeting with Lord Frost as part of the inaugural ‘EU-UK Partnership Council.’ Top of the agenda was the ‘Northern Ireland Protocol’.
Following his meeting with the Rt Hon Lord Frost, Commissioner Sefcovic gave the usual long EU press conference to put across the EU’s side. Shown below is the video of this event.
Press conference in London, UK by Vice-President Maroš ŠEFČOVIČ following today’s EU-UK Partnership…
Press conference by Maroš ŠEFČOVIČ, Vice-President of the European Commission in charge of Interinstitutional relations…
Meanwhile, the UK government contented itself with a written statement
UK Government statement on the meeting of the Partnership Council: 9 June 2021
UK Government statement on the meeting of the Partnership Council The United Kingdom and the European Union today held…
The Northern Ireland Protocol exists as part of an international treaty between the UK and the EU
This Northern Ireland Protocol (NIP) is part of the EU Withdrawal Agreement — a construct agreed to by Theresa May during her premiership. A withdrawal agreement was an imposition by the EU and was not specified in the EU’s treaties, and is not mentioned in Article 50 on the withdrawal of a member country.
Today I present the basic facts. What is the Protocol? What does it say? What does it mean?
The NIP starts very innocuously. Here is the first article, which has just three clauses.
Northern Ireland Protocol, Article 1
“1. This Protocol is without prejudice to the provisions of the 1998 Agreement [Belfast / ‘Good Friday Agreement’ -Ed.] in respect of the constitutional status of Northern Ireland and the principle of consent, which provides that any change in that status can only be made with the consent of a majority of its people.
“2. This Protocol respects the essential State functions and territorial integrity of the United Kingdom.
“3. This Protocol sets out arrangements necessary to address the unique circumstances on the island of Ireland, to maintain the necessary conditions for continued North-South cooperation, to avoid a hard border and to protect the 1998 Agreement in all its dimensions.”
The full text of the Protocol is available here.
You are going to hear a lot about the NIP in the coming weeks, and especially ‘Article 16’ and ‘unilateral actions’
Article 1 sets the scene for the rest of the 63 pages of the NIP and, as such, everything that follows in the Protocol should be read in that light. Unfortunately, this is not how the EU sees things.
Article 16 of the Protocol is effectively a temporary break clause. It was invoked first by the EU itself in January, in a petulant attempt to prevent vaccines from crossing the border from south to north. This happened despite there being no indication that vaccines were being transported across this border. It was also done — quite astonishingly — without consultation with either London or Dublin.
The EU Commission’s unilateral and peremptory action breached the Protocol, created what amounted to a hard border, and resulted in an instant backlash from the UK and Irish governments. In the chaos which ensued the EU Commission had no choice but to back down some hours later.
So, it was the EU itself that was the first to invoke Article 16. The UK has yet to do so, despite the real and present harms being caused to the territorial integrity of the United Kingdom and which have to lead to “serious economic, societal or environmental difficulties that are liable to persist, and to diversion of trade”.
What Article 16 actually says
1. If the application of this Protocol leads to serious economic, societal or environmental difficulties that are liable to persist, or to diversion of trade, the Union or the United Kingdom may unilaterally take appropriate safeguard measures. Such safeguard measures shall be restricted with regard to their scope and duration to what is strictly necessary in order to remedy the situation. Priority shall be given to such measures as will least disturb the functioning of this Protocol.
2. If a safeguard measure taken by the Union or the United Kingdom, as the case may be, in accordance with paragraph 1 creates an imbalance between the rights and obligations under this Protocol, the Union or the United Kingdom, as the case may be, may take such proportionate rebalancing measures as are strictly necessary to remedy the imbalance. Priority shall be given to such measures as will least disturb the functioning of this Protocol.
3. Safeguard and rebalancing measures taken in accordance with paragraphs 1 and 2 shall be governed by the procedures set out in Annex 7 to this Protocol.
And here is ‘Annex 7’
PROCEDURES REFERRED TO IN ARTICLE 16(3)
- Where the Union or the United Kingdom is considering taking safeguard measures under Article 16(1) of this Protocol, it shall, without delay, notify the Union or the United Kingdom, as the case may be, through the Joint Committee and shall provide all relevant information.
2. The Union and the United Kingdom shall immediately enter into consultations in the Joint Committee with a view to finding a commonly acceptable solution.
3. The Union or the United Kingdom, as the case may be, may not take safeguard measures until 1 month has elapsed after the date of notification under point 1 unless the consultation procedure under point 2 has been concluded before the expiration of the state limit. When exceptional circumstances requiring immediate action exclude prior examination, the Union or the United Kingdom, as the case may be, may apply forthwith the protective measures strictly necessary to remedy the situation.
4. The Union or the United Kingdom, as the case may be, shall, without delay, notify the measures taken to the Joint Committee and shall provide all relevant information.
5. The safeguard measures taken shall be the subject of consultations in the Joint Committee every 3 months from the date of their adoption with a view to their abolition before the date of expiry envisaged, or to the limitation of their scope of application. The Union or the United Kingdom, as the case may be, may at any time request the Joint Committee to review such measures.
6. Points 1 to 5 shall apply, mutatis mutandis, to rebalancing measures referred to in Article 16(2) of this Protocol.
What is likely to happen, will the EU ever see reason, and will the UK ever ditch the Protocol?
I have provided the key texts in what is likely to become a hot topic over the coming weeks and months. For example, at the end of this month certain transitional actions taken by the Government will need to be renewed, causing the EU to take further action against the UK and threatening the trade agreement.
I will publish essential facts about the effects of the EU’s Protocol on Northern Ireland and on the United Kingdom as a whole. I will also show how it is completely unnecessary, how border trade is negligible for the EU, and what the consequences of the ‘sausage wars’ might be. I will also demonstrate why the EU’s ‘solutions’ referred to by Mr Sefcovic in his press conference are not solutions at all.
The final Protocol was undoubtedly an improvement on the version provisionally agreed, (but never ratified in Parliament), by Theresa May and her cabal of ardently pro-EU civil servants led by Ollie Robbins.
The latest iteration of this EU abomination comes in the form of the “Northern Ireland Protocol” — an adjunct to the Withdrawal Agreement signed by Prime Minister Boris Johnson at the end of January 2020, and it forms part of the international treaty to which he put his signature.
It was and remains a disgraceful piece of work by the EU and should never have been agreed to by any UK government.
From the first moment, the EU sought to weaponise and jeopardise the hard-won peace agreement in Northern Ireland during Theresa May’s weak and pro-EU government. I have strived to provide cold, hard facts about it. I have done so in an effort to counter this non-issue which was clearly being deployed by the EU to punish the British people for voting to leave its empire. I am further sure that this manufactured issue was part of a concerted campaign to assist UK Remainers in Parliament and in campaign groups, in overturning the result of the EU Referendum.
We now come to the new President who I have to say knows very little about what is going on and who is on record of threatening our nation over the Good Friday Agreement.
Well, let me make something very clear.
Mr President, it’s the EU that broke the Good Friday Agreement, not the UK.
It’s way past time the UK Government educated the World about the EU’s distasteful and disgraceful conduct.
According to The Times, Yael Lempert, President Biden’s Chargé d’Affaires in the UK, has issued the Government with a démarche — a formal diplomatic reprimand — for ‘inflaming’ tensions over the Good Friday Agreement.
The US expressed its ‘deep concern’ about the UK’s actions and behaviour in relation to the Northern Ireland Protocol.
In addition, yesterday the French President, Emmanuel Macron, weighed in during one of his long press conferences at the Elysée Palace, on the eve of his visit to the UK to attend the G7 Summit in Cornwall today.
After his speech, he was questioned by journalists. When asked about the Withdrawal Agreement and its N.I. Protocol, Monsieur Macron said
“Nothing is renegotiable. Everything is applicable.”
It seems clear that France has no desire to see the N.I. Protocol work in practice and wishes to impose as much damage on Northern Ireland and on the United Kingdom as possible.
Governments worldwide need to be informed — and not by the EU
As long ago as last September I reported that the Speaker of the US House of Representatives, influential Democrat Nancy Pelosi, had launched an attack on the UK over the Government’s moves to protect the Good Friday Agreement between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.
Unfortunately, Ms Pelosi’s statement betrayed a lack of understanding of the facts and of who is at fault, and this mistaken opinion has been allowed to persist across the Atlantic to this day.
The EU’s Withdrawal Treaty itself breaks the terms of the Good Friday Agreement
It must always be remembered that it was the EU that insisted on a ‘Northern Ireland Protocol’. It did so despite other solutions being available, which were being advocated by the heads of Customs of the UK and the Republic, and by the expert report of the EU Parliament.
Here are few facts of which neither President Biden nor Speaker Pelosi seems to be aware
I am quite sure that President Biden would not permit a foreign power dictating that Texas had to obey the foreign power’s directives and laws, nor that all the other US States could not sell to Texas without going through extreme border checks for their products. As with any sovereign country like the US and UK, the maintenance of the free flow of trade within the country should be a given.
To prevent free trade within the UK is contrary to the 1800 Act of Union between Great Britain and Ireland and 1707 Articles of Union between England and Scotland
The EU’s Withdrawal Agreement clearly alters the constitutional status of Northern Ireland within the UK
It amounts to a major breach of the core principle of the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement
According to the GFA, NI’s constitutional status cannot be changed without the consent of the people of Northern Ireland
The EU weaponised and endangered the Belfast Agreement, threatening peace
Regrettably, the EU colluded with the government of the Republic of Ireland to capture part of the sovereign territory of the United Kingdom, as part of its intended punishment of the people of the UK for voting to leave the EU. Any objective look at the facts demonstrates this beyond a doubt.
It is a fact that the EU and the Irish Government prevented UK and Irish Customs from agreeing on a simple border solution using technology and ‘trusted trader status.
”The Withdrawal Agreement clearly rips the Good Friday Agreement apart” — Lord Trimble, Peace Prize winner
The Irish border is only mentioned once — in passing — in the Good Friday Agreement (GFA)
The GFA does not require membership of the EU, Customs Union, Single Market [NI court ruling]
HMRC, Irish Customs, and the EU Parliament’s expert report all saw no problem & no hard border
The EU and the Irish government then prevented HMRC and Irish Customs from talking to each other
Brexit for Northern Ireland presents almost no risk to the EU or its Single Market
N.I.’s exports over the border account for under 0.25% of total EU imports
It is worth reading what one of the two main architects of the Belfast Agreement, The Rt Hon The Lord Trimble PC had to say on what the EU has done. Lord Trimble received the Nobel Peace Prize for his work leading to the Good Friday Agreement, so his words carry weight.
The EU’s Withdrawal Agreement breaks the Good Friday Agreement
Says Nobel Peace Prize Winner — and one of the two main architects of it
“The Withdrawal Agreement clearly rips the GFA [Good Friday Agreement] apart.
“Since the laws governing 60 per cent of economic activity in NI will no longer be made at Westminster or by the devolved Assembly, but by an outside law-making body, the EU, and those laws will be subject to interpretation by a non-UK court, clearly the constitutional position of NI has been changed without the consent of the people of NI as required by the GFA.
“Furthermore, there is no way in which the people affected by those decisions will even have a say in the making or application of them.”
- The Rt Hon The Lord Trimble PC, 11 July 2020, CBP Report
The sheer nonsense of the EU’s position.
The EU’s Withdrawal Treaty requires the imposition of tariffs between the UK and Northern Ireland where these goods could be deemed to be at risk of being exported south to the Republic of Ireland. Furthermore, it requires stringent checks on many goods including food products such as burgers and sausages — even if they will be consumed in Northern Ireland — to ensure they meet EU standards. As a result of the Protocol, it is EU standards that must be applied, by EU law, in what is supposed to be a sovereign part of the United Kingdom. Regardless of this unreasonable imposition by the EU, the UK’s standards are already identical to the EU’s, and in some cases even better. It is therefore a non-issue, but the EU insists on making it one.
As the distinguished barrister and EU law specialist, Martin Howe wrote in the Daily Telegraph last year.
Martin Howe QC, writing in the Telegraph
“International law does not justify a later treaty to which these community representatives are not parties being used to over-ride the rights they enjoy under the earlier treaty, especially where it involves over-riding such a fundamental right as the right to self determination of the people of NI.”
“If there were any doubt that Parliament has this right, section 38 of the Withdrawal Agreement Act preserves Parliamentary sovereignty and makes it quite clear that Parliament has the right to pass the clauses which the government is proposing and thereby override these errant clauses in the Protocol.”
“The EU has a long history of disregarding adverse rulings by WTO disputes bodies, for example on subsidies to Airbus. The ECJ itself in a case called Portugal v Council decided that it should not give any direct effect to the WTO Agreements under EU law, because that would force compliance with the WTO obligations and so have the consequence of depriving the EU’s legislative or executive organs of the possibility entering into negotiated arrangements.”
“The Protocol sets out the clear principle that NI is part of the customs territory of the UK, so goods should be allowed to flow from Great Britain to NI without tariffs. There are provisions for the UK authorities to levy EU tariffs on goods which are “at risk” of crossing the open border into the EU. The problem is that the circumstances in which goods are to be treated as “at risk” are not defined in the Protocol, and joint agreement is needed with the EU on the rules which would define this.”
People often ask me how I can call the EU and its Commission corrupt. Well, how else can I describe them when we hear them doing this below?
EU deliberately prevented Irish Customs bosses from sorting out N.I. border four years ago
Irish Customs heads saw no need for a hard border but were quashed by the EU
I present testimony of the Irish Republic’s Customs, leaving no doubt that the EU manufactured this issue. I have shown this before. However, this needs showing again to remind people how corrupt the EU are.
This the shocking evidence that was given by those who were actually in charge of developing simple solutions at the time.
I show how the experts in charge of dealing with the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland were at one. From their own words, readers will be able to discern very quickly from the Heads of the Customs operations of each country that the border issue was only ever an artificial device from the EU.
To be used by the EU to punish the UK for voting to leave its empire by siphoning off part of the UK’s territory, and
To be used by the Irish government in its moves to take over Northern Ireland by stealth
The EU prevented those in charge from even talking to each other to provide a simple solution
Below I show how those whose responsibility it was to police the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland were prevented by the EU — with the full collusion of the Irish government — from even talking.
I start with testimony from Irish Customs. I will reveal how the UK Customs bosses agreed with their Irish counterparts.) The top individuals responsible for Irish Customs were questioned one week apart, and below I quote the key passages relating to the various headings relevant to the whole N.I. border question.
PLEASE NOTE: These are the IRISH customs officials,
giving testimony to the IRISH parliament in 2017
Testimonies were given on the basis that the entire UK (including Northern Ireland) would be OUT of the Single Market, and OUT of the Customs Union
ON PEOPLE CROSSING THE BORDER FOR SHOPPING OR VISITS
Q: “Will somebody who gets on a train in Dublin still be able to travel to Belfast without checks somewhere along the way?”
Mr Niall Cody (Chairman of the Board of the Irish Revenue Commissioners): “I certainly expect so.”
Q: “Okay. It is really about the trade and goods rather than the people.”
Mr Niall Cody: “…The margins are such that there will be cross-Border shopping but it will not put a hole in the Exchequer receipts.… However, we have always had to address them while we have been part of the Single Market, because of excise duty differentials on high volume stuff.”
ON THE NATURE OF THE NEW BORDER
Liam Irwin (Irish Revenue Commissioner)“Whatever happens, it is clear that a border with the United Kingdom, including Northern Ireland, would not be what we saw in 1993 just because customs have moved on and become electronic.”
“We are planning for trade facilitation, enabling goods to move. We have absolutely no plans for anything along the Border at this stage. We are examining what the various forms of declaration might be, primarily or almost exclusively electronic, with anything requiring inspection being signalled for inspection somewhere in general proximity to the Border, but if I were to hazard a guess, not on the Border.”
Q: “Revenue has identified several locations where customs posts could be erected in — — —
” Mr Liam Irwin (Irish Customs): “That is not true.
”Q: “That is not true?
” Mr Liam Irwin (Irish Customs): “That is not true.
Q: “Is Revenue looking at several suitable locations?”
Mr Liam Irwin (Irish Customs): “We are not currently looking at any locations. No planning has reached that stage. We are examining what we might need in terms of infrastructure but not where it might be. We are not looking at sites — — -”
Q: “What does that mean? The witness said it would be beside the Border but not on the Border. What does that mean?”
Mr Liam Irwin (Irish Customs): “It would be in some proximity to the Border. It might be 10 km or 15 km back from the Border.”
Q: “Would it be a facility? What is the purpose of it?”
Mr Liam Irwin (Irish Customs): “Declarations would be electronic. Electronic facilitation could be done using anything from a big computer system to apps on a mobile device such as a tablet or a phone. Most transactions would be immediately approved and that would be the end of that. There would be free movement for those items thereafter. Perhaps 6% to 8% of items, mainly comprising container traffic — — -”
Q: “Would be diverted to this facility?”
Mr Liam Irwin: “ — — would be diverted. Based on current experience, most of those items would be diverted for a documentary check and a small number sent for physical inspection. There would not be customs stops on the Border such as applied until 1992 as described by the Deputy. That is not the process we envisage. Declarations will be electronic. The stations will be there mainly for trade facilitation to clarify issues. There would be some form of customs intervention but not at those stations. It would probably comprise mobile intervention of some consignments, either randomly or randomly with risk rating. The trade facilitation station will be very different from the customs stations the Deputy remembers.”
ON EXISTING ARRANGEMENTS
Mr Niall Cody (Irish Customs): “In 2016, 6% of import declarations were checked and less than 2% were physically checked. The vast majority of these checks were carried out in approved warehouses and other premises with a very small number at a port or airport. The low level of import checks is the result of pre-authorisation of traders, advance lodgement of declarations and an extensive system of post-clearance checks, including customs audit, which are carried out at traders’ premises.”
“Authorised economic operators, AEOs, have a special status in the system and under agreed protocols are allowed to operate greatly simplified customs procedures. There are currently 133 AEOs, which account for 82% of all imports and 89% of exports. It will be very important that the bulk of trade continues to be through AEOs after Brexit.”
ON EU PREVENTING IRISH & BRITISH CUSTOMS ORGANISATIONS FROM TALKING
Liam Irwin: “We are not in any form of negotiation or even having any discussion with the UK at this point.”
Q: “Could Mr Cody clarify whether there is a legal impediment to negotiations between us and — — -”
Mr Niall Cody (Irish Customs): “Yes.”
Q: “ — — -so we can have discussions but not negotiations?”
Mr Niall Cody (Irish Customs): “The European Union will be negotiating with the United Kingdom in regard to Brexit.”
Q: “We cannot do that as a single member state.”
Mr. Niall Cody (Irish Customs): “No. Revenue would not be a party to negotiations of that type anyway. We implement the policy and the law. The Department of Finance would lead on fiscal policy. HM Revenue & Customs is like ourselves in this regard.”
ON THE IDEA OF DOING EVERYTHING ELECTRONICALLY
It is now EU policy for customs across the EU to be managed electronically.
Mr Niall Cody (Irish Customs)
“The EU policy is to go to an IT-based customs process that is totally paperless. The Vice President of the European Commission gave a speech at the European Parliament last week about evaluating customs performance and management as a tool to facilitate trade and fight illicit trade.”
Mr Niall Cody (Irish Customs): “Under EU treaties, customs policy is a competence of the Commission. The law governing customs, the Union customs code, was introduced in 2016. The administration of controls is a matter for national administrations provided that the systems in use satisfactorily address any risk to the EU.”
ON CROSS-BORDER TRADE IN AGRICULTURAL PRODUCTS AND ANIMALS
Mr Niall Cody (Irish Customs)
“Food integrity is clearly a major challenge, and the agrifood sector will need careful handling. It is primarily one of the areas that the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine will lead on. There is an integrated nature to the supply chain of the agri-food sector, which is probably the biggest sectoral challenge. It is interesting in the context of the task force as this issue is primarily driven by environmental health, so DG SANTE leads in that regard, and we are kind of subcontractors after the event. Nobody underestimates the challenge that Brexit brings but we will be starting from a position of an equivalence of standards. As Mr Keegan argues, when somebody leaves the club, equivalence changes over time. That is an asset challenge but we will be a support to agriculture in that area.”
ON IRISH GOODS TRANSITING THROUGH THE UK
Q: “Let me give an example of a haulier who has a truck going to France via the Border. Mr Cody has outlined the role of Revenue at the Border. What will happen when this truck crosses into Northern Ireland, travels to England and crosses to France? Could Mr Cody say how many checks a truck would have to undergo on that journey?”
Mr Niall Cody: “It would depend on whether the United Kingdom is part of the common transit arrangement. If it were part of the common transit area, there is a facility whereby a truck leaving Dublin can go under the transit arrangement to its final destination in France.”
Q: “Would it have been checked once?”
Mr Niall Cody: “It would probably not have been checked at all.”
Border officials not allowed to talk to each other
Mr Cody, head of the Irish Revenue, stated that effectively they were not allowed to talk to their counterparts in the UK about the Irish border. This was back in 2017, four years ago, when there was still plenty of time to agree on technical solutions to the north-south border and before any ‘Northern Ireland Protocol’ had been agreed.
I will demonstrate via the testimony of the head of HMRC to the UK Parliament that talks between the Customs organisations on each side of the border were terminated — despite the officers wanting to discuss and agree on light-touch regulation.
There were no plans for border infrastructure because it wasn’t going to be needed
Perhaps one of the most illuminating parts of the two encounters which the heads of Irish Customs and Excise had with the Dáil Éireann (Irish parliament) in 2017 was the question of border controls. Despite TDs (MPs) doing their utmost to get the Customs officials to describe a calamitous post-Brexit situation with a hard border having to be introduced, the Customs bosses would have none of it.
Instead, they talked of zero infrastructure being needed at the border, the vast bulk of cross border trade being processed electronically, and of the extended use of ‘trusted trader’ status. Never at any stage did they indicate any sense of alarm, nor did they suggest that the technology was not available and was not already being used. Naturally, systems would change and need to be enhanced, but the Customs organisations quite rightly saw this as something they would sort out.
This contrasts with the nonsense coming out of Brussels (and Dublin) at the time and to this day. The EU Commission and Irish government both said that the technology and systems were not available and that the only way to prevent a hard border was with the Northern Ireland Protocol. The EU Commission and Irish government are telling outright lie as you can see.
This simply wasn’t — and isn’t — true. This was ideological on the part of the EU.
As Niall Cody, head of Irish Customs said: “We implement the policy and the law.” It was the politicians and the bureaucrats in Brussels who interfered and who decided to use the virtually non-existent issue of the border to create the monster that is the Northern Ireland Protocol. It is clear from the testimony of the HMRC that left to their own devices the Customs organisations on each side of the border could easily have developed simple solutions with no impact on the Good Friday Agreement.
Now I will reveal the testimony of the head of Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC), who goes much further about this.
“No border infrastructure needed between N.I. and Ireland under any circumstances” — Head of HMRC
No hard Irish border ever required — UK Customs agreed with Irish Customs in 2017
UK Parliament was told in 2017 by HMRC it was prevented from agreeing on N.I. border solution with Irish colleagues.
In 2017 Sir Jon Thompson was Chief Executive and Permanent Secretary at HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC). On Wednesday 29 November 2017 he gave formal testimony to the UK Parliament’s Exiting the European Union Committee, chaired by arch-Remainer Hilary Benn MP.
HMRC testimony to UK Parliament, 2017
- No infrastructure between N.I. and Ireland is required under any circumstances
2. HMRC boss tells it like it is over the Irish question
3. The new customs system was on schedule and would be online two months before the first planned Brexit
4. HMRC was not allowed to discuss new arrangements with Irish and French customs
The UK and Irish Customs in broad agreement back in 2017, then stopped from implementing
Sir Jon’s testimony supports that of his Irish colleagues and is damning for the EU and for the Irish government.
KEY EXCERPTS — HEAD OF HMRC — POST-BREXIT CUSTOMS & BORDERS
Sir Jon Thompson giving evidence to the Exiting the European Union Committee, Wed 29 Nov 2017. Testimony was given on the basis that the entire UK (including Northern Ireland) would be OUT of the Single Market, and OUT of the Customs Union
On the new Customs Declaration Service
Sir Jon Thompson, Head of HMRC: “Actually the project is completely on track. We have every confidence it will be completed by January 2019. The project has met all of its milestones in the current year. Traders will begin the migration to the new system in July 2018.”
On the Transition Period
Q: “Is it your anticipation that things will just carry on as they are at the moment?”
Sir Jon Thompson, Head of HMRC: “Yes.”
On there being no need for a hard border (nor the Northern Ireland Protocol)
Q: “The government wants no border and no infrastructure — how can the government’s policy be achieved?”
Sir Jon Thompson, Head of HMRC: “The assumption is there’s a negotiated settlement with the EU in which the highly streamlined customs arrangement is adopted. We stay in the common transit convention, there’s mutual recognition of the authorised economic operator scheme, and so on.” [Mr Thompson refers the Committee to the government papers issued on this question in August 2017.]
“Because of the unique Northern Ireland/Ireland situation, you need to add on three additional things which are set out in the NI paper.”
“First of all to maximise the authorised economic operator scheme, secondly to seek a derogation for small traders because there needs to be a recognition that the border area is very much a local economy in which traders cross the border on a regular basis, and thirdly that we would move to a system of self-assessment, which is set out in the Union Customs Code and which is very much the direction of travel for the European Union.”
“We believe that would cover the vast majority of trade between Ireland and Northern Ireland. If there were any checks they would be risk and intelligence-based checks and they would take place well away from the legal border.”
Q: “In the event of no deal, would it be possible to achieve no border infrastructure?”
Sir Jon Thompson, Head of HMRC: “It’s possible for the government to make a unilateral decision of what it will do at the border, which would be in line with my answer to your previous question.” We do not believe we require any infrastructure between Northern Ireland and Ireland under any circumstances.”
On the EU preventing the UK and Irish Customs organisations from implementing solutions
Q: “Have you had any dealings with the Irish about this?”
Sir Jon Thompson, Head of HMRC: “There are no formal conversations with either the French or the Irish. We cannot talk to Customs or taxation management organisations in either of those countries. There are only informal conversations with the Belgians and the Dutch.”
Q: “From everything you’ve said, this isn’t much of an issue, or am I missing something? From our point of view, there’s no reason why it can’t be business as usual?”
Sir Jon Thompson, Head of HMRC: “That is correct. That is correct. That is the consistent advice we have given ministers.”
The above is the formal testimony of the then Chief Executive and Permanent Secretary at HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC), Sir Jon Thompson, in November 2017 to a committee of the UK Parliament.
Here is a question. WHY have you not heard this before? WHY have the media been very quiet about this and the Irish testimony?
Both the EU and the Irish Varadkar government carry a heavy responsibility
It’s clear that both the Irish and British Customs organisations were very frustrated at not being allowed to speak to each other. It’s equally clear that they shared the same pragmatic approach in implementing workable solutions which would still avoid a hard border and would have avoided any ‘Protocol’ of the type insisted upon by the EU.
When reviewing the testimony of the Irish Customs which I have provided, and the British Customs which I have provided, it must be remembered that these people are public servants. They were unable to say what they truly felt. I have watched — and had to transcribe laboriously — their testimony to their respective parliaments. Their frustration is plain to see.
If they had been allowed by the EU and by the Dublin government to get on with their jobs, working together to sort out the simplest solutions, they would have put in place a soft border plan almost faster than you can say “British bangers barbecued in Bangor”.
Instead, these highly experienced and willing public servants were stopped in their tracks by ideologically-based diktats from Brussels and Dublin.
The N.I border issue is a damning symbol of the rot at the heart of the entire EU ‘Projekt’ THE sheer insanity of what should have been a non-issue has been blown up into something which now threatens peace in Northern Ireland and which seriously risks the fragmentation of the United Kingdom. Only a dysfunctional and bullying cabal in the heart of Brussels could have dreamt this up, with the aid of an Irish political class seeing an opportunity to seize part of the territory of the United Kingdom for itself.
Now I am going to NAIL this dysfunctional and bullying cabal once and for all.
If the EU’s Single Market is at risk from 0.2% of imports from N.I. then they’re in real trouble.
I now present proof the EU’s actions can’t seriously be about ‘integrity of the Single Market’ like they say it is.
I lay bare what is perhaps one of the biggest EU distortions of all in this sorry affair.
Put simply, “the integrity of the EU Single Market” is NOT at risk from goods crossing the N.I. border. 99.8% of all EU’s goods imports do NOT cross the border from Northern Ireland. This is and has always been a bizarre, manufactured, and completely implausible argument used by the EU to punish the UK for leaving, by annexing part of its territory.
The strangest thing of all is that the EU has not been completely ridiculed about it throughout the World.
Over and over again, EU bureaucrats and EU27 leaders have spoken of the need “to preserve the integrity of the Single Market”. They have used this phrase to justify the Northern Ireland Protocol which places Northern Ireland under the EU’s laws and effectively separates it from the rest of the United Kingdom, of which it is inherently a part.
Is the EU serious about ‘the integrity of EU Single Market’ because of an N.I? threat?
The simple fact is that in 2019 — the last year for which official figures are available — 99.8% of all the EU’s goods imports did NOT cross the border from Northern Ireland.
The Republic of Ireland’s imports from its northern neighbour (now technically a land border for the EU) did not even amount to a rounding error in the totality of the EU’s imported goods that year.
EU’s imported goods figures for 2019
- Value of all goods imported into EU: €1.94 trillion (approx £1,672 billion GBP)
2. Total of goods imported from N.I. : €0.004 trillion (approx £3.5bn GBP)
3. N.I. exports over the Irish border represented only around 1/500th of all EU imports into its Single Market
I used trade statistics from 2019, as these are the latest available from Northern Ireland’s official statistics agency, NISRA. Nevertheless, these show the traffic of goods across the border with the Republic and with the rest of the United Kingdom and were unaffected by Covid-19. I used a 2019 exchange rate of €1.136 to £1.00 and compared with the official total for all EU27 goods imports for 2019 provided by the EU’s official statistics agency, Eurostat.
In 2019 the UK was still part of the European Union. Despite this, the EU’s statistics agency has been removing data from its latest reports, to exclude the UK even when it was still a member. For the statistics in my report today I have removed the UK entirely from the total of the EU’s imported goods in 2019. This makes the Northern Ireland numbers truly proportionate to the EU27’s total value of imported goods.
The simple, basic facts about Northern Ireland’s sales
The rest of the United Kingdom is by far Northern Ireland’s largest external market, accounting for almost 50% of its external sales of goods. Great Britain is followed by the rest of the non-EU world, with almost 21%.
According to the official Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency (NISRA), Northern Ireland’s sales of goods and services in 2019 amounted to £71.9 billion. External sales to the rest of the UK, the Republic of Ireland, the rest of the EU, and the rest of the world totalled £23 billion.
The Office for National Statistics states that 78% of N.I.’s external sales are goods. Given that we are only interested in goods crossing the border, we have used this ratio in compiling the data below.
Northern Ireland’s external sales of goods in 2019
- Great Britain (UK excl. N.I.) 49.1%
2. Rest of the world (excl. EU) 20.9%
3. Republic of Ireland 19.6%
4. Rest of the EU (26 countries) 10.5%
Source: NISRA report dated 28 April 2021.
The justification used by the EU for effectively annexing part of United Kingdom’s sovereign territory and ‘ripping up’ the Good Friday Agreement (in the words of its surviving architect, Nobel Peace Price winner Lord Trimble), is “to preserve the integrity of the EU Single Market”.
Who do the EU think they’re kidding?
The value of the EU’s imports of goods crossing the Northern Irish border to the Republic of Ireland, still an EU member, is just 0.2% of the value of all goods imports entering the EU. In accounting terms this is a rounding error.
If the EU thinks the integrity of its Single Market is in any way under threat from such a tiny amount of imports, the vast majority of which are in any case covered by a small number of N.I. exporters under the trusted trader scheme, then they really are in trouble.
It’s high time that this sort of nonsense was called out for what it is. Why pretend to go along with the EU’s absurd rationalisations? The EU saw an opportunity under Theresa May’s weak Remainer government to make an issue out of nothing, which would divide the United Kingdom — something which she vowed that no British Prime Minister could or would ever do.
The Varadkar and Coveney Irish government at the time enthusiastically embraced the EU’s plan, seeing its potential to split Northern Ireland from the rest of the UK, move further towards taking Northern Ireland into the Republic, and curry favour with Brussels.
Fortunately, it was the British people who rose to the challenge again, having first done so in the 2016 EU Referendum. In 2019 they were finally able to elect an ostensibly pro-Brexit government led by Boris Johnson. Unfortunately, that government felt unable to tear up the Withdrawal Agreement and Northern Ireland Protocol.
Instead, they opted for a compromise, faced with a bad situation, and now they must confront the consequences. There is no question that this deal should never have been signed, but equally, there is no doubt that the EU is applying the terms of the deal in such a rigid way as to make it completely unworkable.
Last week Lord (Dan) Hannan called for the Northern Ireland Protocol to be revoked by the UK in an excellent article in the Telegraph. (“The arrogant EU won’t budge an inch. We have no choice but to abolish the Protocol”)
We should do it this week.
Sources: NISRA | ONS | EU Commission’s official statistics agency
The Dáil (Irish Parliament) | Irish Revenue Commissioners
The Good Friday Agreement | The Withdrawal Agreement | The Elysée Palace | CBP | Martin Howe QC article, (Chairman, Lawyers for Britain)