EU silent on whether changes to 'customs processes' on the Irish Sea border are possible

The European Union is refusing to comment on whether there is scope for changes to customs processes and physical checks on goods entering Northern Ireland from Great Britain.
The EU has made clear that the Windsor Framework is not up for negotiation.The EU has made clear that the Windsor Framework is not up for negotiation.
The EU has made clear that the Windsor Framework is not up for negotiation.

Brussels earlier this week categorically ruled out fundamental changes to the Windsor Framework deal, such as the removal of EU law from Northern Ireland. However it is refusing to say whether changes to customs processes – asked for by the DUP leader this week – could be allowed.

Sir Jeffrey Donaldson asked the government to work with him to ensure that “where goods are moving from Great Britain to Northern Ireland they are not subject to EU customs processes that are neither necessary or fair or right”.

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The News Letter asked Brussels if there is scope under the Windsor Framework to remove any customs processes or physical checks on those goods. A Brussels spokesperson on EU-UK agreements said he had “no comment”.

With fundamental changes – such as the application of EU law to Northern Ireland – ruled out, there has been speculation about what scope there is for a deal between the DUP and the UK government. The UK government didn’t answer whether it would rule out unilaterally removing some customs processes – saying only that the Secretary of State is “doing everything he can” to restore the Stormont institutions.

Jim Allister has told the News Letter that “Even if, for mutually expedient short termism, the EU acquiesced in easements to aid DUP salesmanship, it would not, without legal change, alter the Protocol and its suspension of Art 6 of the Acts of Union.” He added that without the removal of EU laws “there is no redemption of the Union”.

Peter Robinson said this week that free trade from NI to GB was one of the DUP’s focuses. Former Brexit Party MEP Ben Habib had a similar view. "I think what Jeffrey is going to be trying to get is some kind of confirmation that checks won’t take place on goods moving from NI to GB. But even there, I would be really surprised if he gets anything that’s concrete", he said.