Although the Northern Ireland Protocol has been relatively quiet in the news in the August holiday lull, its negative effects continue to be felt. The province’s trade with the rest of the UK is worth about £10 billion annually, and new trade frictions cost at least £600 million in direct increases in the costs of supplies from the rest of the UK. Other business frictions connected with altering supply chains and adapting manufacturing processes will add to this figure. Additionally, it has so far cost the UK government at least £560 million to actually implement the protocol.
The effects are also being felt in specific sectors. Farmers complain that animal imports are hampered by excessive red tape. Medicine supplies remain a source of serious concern (see our previous article for the seriousness of the issues here.) Manufacturers and supermarkets are nervous about the expiry of the second grace period at the end of September, when full checks will (theoretically) have to be imposed.
Although the EU shied away from proceeding with legal action against the UK for unilateral extending of the grace period, Brussels seems wedded to a protocol that is clearly causing significant pain to the Northern Irish economy and which is intolerable for the Unionist community. In the circumstances, Boris Johnson would be well-advised to consider Article 16 as the final option to safeguard peace and prosperity in the province.