UK seeks Irish intervention on NI Protocol in return for help with 'land bridge'

THE British government is seeking the Republic’s assistance on easing the Northern Ireland protocol on Brexit in return for agreement on the so-called ‘land bridge’. The ‘land bridge’ relates to how truck drivers move goods between Ireland and mainland Europe by travelling through Britain. Some 80 per cent of Irish exports to the EU rely on the UK land route to access European ports.

Sources have told RTE the British government has been asking the Irish government to encourage Brussels to be more flexible on the implementation of the Northern Ireland Protocol. The protocol, part of the UK’s Brexit withdrawal agreement, would see the north continue to operate under some EU rules in a bid to avoid a hard border with the south. It means goods moving from Britain to Northern Ireland will face checks and controls when the transition period is due to run out at the end of the year.

Britain has sought Dublin’s help on aspects of the protocol considered sensitive to unionists, RTE reported. They want checks on food for Northern Ireland supermarket chains should be carried out at depots within Britain, rather than at northern ports. They also want checks on live animals to happen at abattoirs, rather than at Larne port.

And the British government is also said to have problems with the need to build Border Control Posts for checks on food and agri-food products coming to the north from Britain. Sources told RTE that while the Irish government is sympathetic to the need for pragmatism, it has been cautious of the British government’s moves. One official told the broadcaster: “We won’t get in a position where we’re teaming up with the British on something and then going back with it to Brussels.

“That’s just not how it was done for four years and we’re not going to start doing it now. “We will transparently discuss and explore with the commission and [EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier’s] Task Force whether they’d be prepared to negotiate or explore these ideas, but we won’t do it bilaterally, and that still stands.” Irish officials said they were unsure of what the British government could offer on the land bridge, and have reservations about the feasibility of some suggestions.

One source said: “You could be signing up for something that sounds great in theory, but discover that it’s just not possible to operate effectively.

“If you were guaranteed a fast track that would have some attraction.

But we could get resistance from other member states about it, and you would also have to be convinced it would work in practice.”