Since it came into force exactly one year ago, at the start of 2021, the Northern Ireland Protocol has caused major controversy.
Most recently it has led to legal action against Agriculture Minister Edwin Poots for not securing the wider approval of the Stormont Executive for port checks which are required by the protocol.
Q. Who is initiating the legal action?
A. Loyalist activist Jamie Bryson is the named person taking forward the case on behalf of the Unionist Voice Policy Studies (UVPS) group.
They served a pre-action letter to Mr Poots in December against his Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA)
UVPS claimed that the port checks required by the protocol are unlawful because they have not received Executive approval. DAERA has now been confirmed it will refer ongoing and future implementation of the Protocol to the Executive Committee.
Q. What could happen then?
A. The referral to ministers could potentially halt all implementation of the Protocol, as the DUP could use its Executive veto to prevent agreement.
However, Sinn Fein is unlikely to agree to it being put on the Executive’s agenda.
In that case, Mr Poots could order an end to checkpoints at Northern Irish ports, raising the prospect of putting the Stormont Executive at odds with the British Government’s legal duty to implement protocol checks.
Q. Why is the protocol necessary?
A. It is intended to protect the EU single market, while avoiding imposition of a ‘hard border’ that might lead to a recurrence of conflict and destabilise the relative peace that has held since the end of the Troubles. Negotiations between London and Brussels to resolve issues with the protocol are set to continue this month.