Irish Sea border

The Irish Sea border is an informal term for the trade border between Northern Ireland and Great Britain. It was specified by the Ireland/Northern Ireland Protocol of the Brexit withdrawal agreement (February 2020), was refined by the Joint Committee in December 2020,[1] and came into effect on 1 January 2021 following the end of the Brexit transition period. As a result of the Agreement, Northern Ireland remains aligned to the European Single Market in a limited way for goods,[2] whilst remaining part of the United Kingdom customs territory and the UK internal market. Its effect is that the need for customs checks on the Irish border has been avoided, and a hard border has not been re-established.[3]

This Irish Sea border was the option taken by Prime Minister Johnson in October 2019 to break the impasse of the "Brexit Trilemma" (of three competing objectives: an open border on the island; no border in the Irish Sea; and no British participation in the European Single Market and the European Union Customs Union.[4])

Under the terms of the Withdrawal Agreement, the Northern Ireland Assembly has the power (after 31 December 2024) to decide whether to terminate or continue the protocol arrangements. "The Withdrawal Agreement doesn’t state how Northern Ireland should give consent [to continue] – it is for the UK to determine how that decision is made" but the UK Government has already declared that the decision will be made by a simple majority of Assembly members.[5] In the event that consent is not given, the arrangements would cease to apply two years thereafter. The Joint Committee would make alternative proposals to the UK and EU to avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland. If consent is given, then the question may be put again after a further four years.[5]


When crossing from Great Britain into Northern Ireland, people travelling with pets or are carrying more than €10,000 (or equivalent) in cash are required to follow the same laws as when travelling from GB to the European Union.[6][7][a]


Whilst conducting Brexit negotiations during her term as British Prime Minister, Theresa May stated "'no UK prime minister could ever agree' to a border in the Irish Sea".[8] Similarly, in August 2020, Boris Johnson said that "'There will be no border down the Irish Sea - over my dead body'".[9]

The Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) supported Brexit, but "opposed the protocol and voted against it in the House of Commons." Some Unionists, according to The Independent, believed that: "the Brexit deal has cut NI adrift from the rest of the UK, pushing Belfast further away from London, paving the way for an economic united Ireland", and loyalists called for the arrangement to be removed or, furthermore, for the collapse of the devolved administration. The governing DUP, however, said that ""It would be a foolish idea to collapse devolution. It would remove the party who opposed the NI Protocol and give all power for Northern Ireland back to the UK government, who created and implemented the NI Protocol."[10] Speaking before Westminster voted to ratify the Trade Agreeement, Lord Empey (chairman of the Ulster Unionist Party) argued that the Protocol came about because the DUP had indicated acceptance of it. He said that he had "pointed out that, immediately this document was released, Arlene Foster and her DUP colleagues endorsed these proposals, describing them as 'a serious and sensible way forward'".[11]

In January 2021, graffiti reading "all border control post staff are targets" was painted onto a wall near Larne port. [12] On 1st February, DAERA instructed Border Control Post staff in Larne and Belfast to "temporarily suspend" physical controls on Products of Animal Origin, pending talks with the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI), due to threats to the safety of staff. "Full documentary checks" continued as usual.[13]

Graffiti in Belfast February 2021

See also


  1. ^ As of January 2020, about £9,000 or $12,000.


  1. ^ "ACTS ADOPTED BY BODIES CREATED BY INTERNATIONAL AGREEMENTS". Official Journal of the European Union. European Commission. 17 December 2020.
  2. ^ Campbell, John (23 December 2021). "Brexit: Five steps that led to an Irish Sea border". BBC News. Retrieved 10 January 2021.
  3. ^ "Why is avoiding a hard border in Ireland a priority?". Full Fact. 17 December 2018. Retrieved 10 January 2021.
  4. ^ Springford, John (7 March 2018). "Theresa May's Irish trilemma". Centre for European Reform. Retrieved 17 June 2019.
  5. ^ a b "Northern Ireland protocol: consent mechanism". Institute For Government. Retrieved 14 January 2020.
  6. ^ "New rules for pet travel from 1 January 2021". UK Government. 16 December 2020. Retrieved 10 January 2021.
  7. ^ Calder, Simon (2 January 2021). "Irish Sea border: what has changed between Great Britain and Northern Ireland?". Independent. Retrieved 10 January 2021.
  8. ^ Blevins, David (11 December 2020). "Brexit: Theresa May and Boris Johnson's words on the Irish border have come back to haunt them". Sky News. Retrieved 10 January 2021.
  9. ^ ""There will be no border down the Irish Sea - over my dead body."". ITV News. 14 August 2020. Retrieved 10 January 2021.
  10. ^ Mathers, Matt (6 January 2021). "Brexit: DUP should make NI government 'unworkable' until Irish Sea border removed, says loyalist activist". Independent. Retrieved 10 January 2021.
  11. ^ Steven Alexander (30 December 2020). "DUP told to face up to its role in creating border in Irish Sea". The Belfast Telegraph. Retrieved 11 January 2020.
  12. ^ "Police investigating graffiti threat to Larne 'border post staff'".
  13. ^ https://twitter.com/JP_Biz/status/1356360792443117569. Missing or empty |title=

External links

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