How US President Joe Biden has waded into the UKs Northern Ireland Brexit row with the EU

EU protocols on Northern Ireland trade are 'nutty' says expert

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Last week it emerged that the United States were planning to delay lifting trade tariffs that apply to UK steel and aluminium products, due to concerns over how the UK was approaching discussions with the European Union about post-Brexit trade rules, and how these could affect the current situation in Northern Ireland. A source from the US Commerce Department implied that talks with the UK over easing metal tariffs could not currently go ahead.

The penalties in question were imposed on the EU by the administration of former US president, Donald Trump. However, President Biden withdrew them in October.

Nonetheless, the 25 and 10 percent tariffs on steel and aluminium imports are poised to remain in force beyond January.

The source, in question, cited concerns from the US side over threats that the UK has made to trigger Article 16 of the Northern Ireland Protocol.

Article 16 is an emergency measure that allows either the UK or EU to suspend aspects of the Protocol in situations where they believe those aspects to be causing “economic, societal or environmental difficulties.”

Last September, Nancy Pelosi, the US House of Representatives speaker, warned that there would be no post-Brexit trade agreement between the UK and US if the Northern Ireland peace agreement was destroyed.

Meanwhile, a spokesperson for the UK Government reacted to the news by stating that it would not “affect the UK’s approach” to talks with the EU as they attempt to negotiate terms on the Northern Ireland Protocol.

Lord Frost, the Brexit minister, is currently leading talks for the UK with the bloc.

Over the weekend the European Commission Vice-President, Maros Sefcovic, said that there had been no breakthrough after his latest round of discussions with Lord Frost.

Speaking about the recent talks Lord Frost said that progress had “been quite limited”. He added that “the gap between our positions is still significant”

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The UK steel industry has urged both the UK and US Governments to attempt to reach a compromise on trade tariffs now.

In an interview with Sky News, the Director General of the industry body UK Steel, Gareth Stace said: “On the 1st January, steelmakers in the EU will gain a significant price advantage over their UK counterparts.

“Since those tariffs came in, our exports to the US have declined from 350,000 tonnes in 2018 to 200,000 tonnes in 2020.

“While many of our US customers have stood by us, it is imperative that all parties work together to come to an agreement that provides the UK with the same tariff-free quotas the EU has already secured, and that such an agreement is arrived at as soon as possible.”

What is the Northern Ireland Protocol?

Back in 2016 when the UK voted to leave the EU, terms began to be negotiated on a treaty between the two which would later become recognised as the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement.

The Northern Ireland Protocol was agreed as part of this treaty – also known as the Protocol on Ireland or Northern Ireland

In December 2020 terms were finalised for the protocol which governs the unique customs and immigration at the Irish border between – what is now technically – the UK and EU (Republic of Ireland).

The Northern Ireland Protocol came into effect once the UK’s transition period from the EU ended on December 31 2020.

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