The revision of post-Brexit trade regulations for Northern Ireland is a topic of discussion between Britain and the EU, and the Irish prime minister stated on Saturday that an agreement is conceivable but not certain in the coming days.
A deal to reduce trade restrictions put in place by the Northern Ireland Protocol, the procedures made to prevent a hard border with Ireland when the United Kingdom leaves the EU in 2020, has been gaining momentum for weeks.
Lawmakers in British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s Conservative party have been told to be in parliament on Monday, in a sign that a deal could be imminent.
“I think the talks on reforming the protocol are inching towards a conclusion. Certainly the deal isn’t done yet, but I do think we are inching towards a conclusion,” Leo Varadkar told reporters.
“There is the possibility of agreement in the next few days but by no means guaranteed … There’s still a gap to be closed,” Varadkar said, adding there is ongoing engagement between the UK government and European Commission.
Varadkar, who played a key role when the protocol was agreed in 2019, encouraged London, Brussels and Northern Irish politicians “to go the extra mile” to help reach an agreement, saying the benefits would be “huge”.
While an agreement would mark an end to a two-year standoff between Britain and the EU, Sunak could face a battle with pro-Brexit Conservative lawmakers and pro-British Northern Irish politicians to make the deal work.
The majority of Northern Irish citizens, who voted against Brexit, have regularly indicated their support for the protocol in surveys; nonetheless, unionist resistance has prevented the province’s assembly and power-sharing government from convening for a year.
The Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), the biggest pro-British party in the area, has stated that it will continue to boycott the assembly until all inspections on goods leaving Britain for Northern Ireland are lifted.