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NI deal 'may be done by February'
Last Updated: 2022-12-12 10:31 | China Daily
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The United Kingdom may be close to agreeing a new deal with the European Union on how trade involving Northern Ireland should be handled.
The province, which is part of the UK, shares a land border with the Republic of Ireland, which is a member of the EU. The border between them has been a thorny issue ever since the UK left the EU in 2020 because in the past it was a flash-point for sectarian violence involving factions wanting a united island and those favoring the status quo.
All sides wanted to avoid reinstating a hard border, over fears it would reignite the violence.
London and Brussels agreed to leave a soft border in place, but, under the terms of the Northern Ireland Protocol, goods crossing it would be checked remotely.
Additionally, they agreed Northern Ireland would be largely treated, for trade issues, as if it were still part of the EU and not part of the UK. That part of the deal was controversial among people who wanted Northern Ireland to be treated exactly the same as the rest of the UK, which made the protocol largely unworkable from the start.
On the weekend, The Sunday Times newspaper said UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak was close to agreeing a new deal with the EU, following secret talks, and that it could be in place by February.
The Daily Express newspaper said Sunak had also appointed hardline Brexiteer Oliver Lewis, who was a prominent member of the Vote Leave campaign ahead of the 2016 referendum, to reassure hardline euroskeptics the proposed deal was acceptable.
The paper said Lewis's appointment was aimed at calming nerves among the European Research Group, a staunchly pro-Brexit faction within the governing Conservative Party.
An anonymous government source told the paper Lewis would aim to make sure they feel "listened to" and "in the loop".
The Times said the new deal will likely include the EU giving ground on data-sharing and on the role of the European Court of Justice.
An unnamed government official told the paper: "We want to give negotiations the best chance. Public discussions of amendments would not be helpful at this stage. We'll let the team try the negotiations with Brussels first."
The Times added that all sides hope a new deal can be reached before April, when United States President Joe Biden is likely to visit the island of Ireland, to mark the 25th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement, which ended decades of sectarian violence and which set up the soft border and power-sharing.
Biden has told Sunak and his predecessors he wants to see the Northern Ireland Protocol issue sorted out by the April anniversary, and that any kind of improved trade deal between London and Washington may depend on it.

(Editor:Wang Su)

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NI deal 'may be done by February'
Source:China Daily | 2022-12-12 10:31
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