By Sean Mulryan – Current Affairs Editor
Something that garnered attention this week was the revelation that the majority of people living in Northern Ireland now understand the Northern Ireland Protocol to be a positive.
This is according to a LucidTalk survey carried out for Queen’s University, Belfast in which 52% of the 2,682 participants regarded the Northern Ireland Protocol as “on balance a good thing for NI” in responding to the implications of Brexit on Northern Ireland. This figure, having increased from 43% in a previous iteration of this survey earlier this year in June, marks an improvement in attitudes towards the economic barriers between us and Great Britain.
The Northern Ireland Protocol stems from the referendum of 2016 in which the United Kingdom and her people voted to abandon outright the European Union. There is unarguability with the fact there is an awkward tension that exists between the UK and the EU, which hasn’t been helped by the situation in Northern Ireland. With regards to areas such as checks on goods that are incoming to the country, nothing short of turmoil has been ensuing. Hard borders are at the core of this issue, and the Northern Ireland Protocol was initiated as a method avoiding a hard border on the Island whilst ensuring that the UK, and subsequently Northern Ireland, could leave the European Union.
Concocted as part of the withdrawal deal, the protocol was to ensure the collection of tariffs, “…on goods at risk of entering the EU’s Single Market at ports of entry…” according to the cabinet office, avoiding a hard land border on the Island, and instead applying a border in the Irish sea. As a result, Northern Ireland could remain as a unique actor to other United Kingdom participants, who could still exist in European Union customs territory and the single market for goods.
The implementation of this on January 1st earlier this year brought about a special cauldron of chaos, with examples of exorbitant loads of paperwork and red tape required for completion. One example I personally found quite humorous, although it more than likely was not humorous for the victim, was a supplier who produced a commodity code that was two digits short, thus being invalid and caused a major pain to be rectified.
These issues are common theme amongst residents of Northern Ireland. While there seems to be growing acceptance of the Northern Ireland Protocol, the problems that have incurred cannot be ignored. According to a recent published study, The Border After Brexit: Experiences of Local Communities in the Central Border Region of Ireland / Northern Ireland, “Most participants in the study report negative economic experiences of the impact of Brexit and the Protocol, with around half of respondents pointing to problems with the supply, delivery, delays in delivery, and general availability of goods.”
Professor David Phinnemore of Queen’s University stated that the “Majority opinion in Northern Ireland appears to be becoming more accepting and indeed more supportive of the protocol, although many voters remain concerned about the impact Brexit and the protocol are having on Northern Ireland.”