The revised Protocol on Ireland/Northern Ireland means Northern Ireland will stay in European Union Single Market regulatory alignment for goods, for a minimum of six years (four before the first Assembly vote, plus two subsequent) from the end of the transition period.

If during this time Great Britain [sic] diverges from the European Union Customs Union and/or Single Market regulations then a border must, per the new protocol, be erected along the Irish Sea between Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

The Belfast/Good Friday Agreement states in Constitutional Issues, 1, iii, that:

...it would be wrong to make any change in the status of Northern Ireland save with the consent of a majority of its people

If Great Britain diverges in customs or Single Market regulations during this time, would the Belfast/Good Friday agreement be breached?

  • 1
    Frankly that passage could also mean that NI cannot Brexit at all without a majority of NI voting for Brexit. But the majority of NI actually voted against Brexit in the 2016 referendum. (But Dan Scally seems to have the real answer in properly interpreting that passage.) Nov 8, 2019 at 1:04
  • Not really, because the change in Brexit is not to do with the UK/NI relationship, but with the UK/EU relationship.
    – 52d6c6af
    Nov 8, 2019 at 18:04

1 Answer 1


No. At least, not that part of the GFA. Customs and Single Market regulations are not a constitutional issue. In fact, the same section of the GFA quoted in full in my opinion makes this clear:

(iii) acknowledge that while a substantial section of the people in Northern Ireland share the legitimate wish of a majority of the people of the island of Ireland for a united Ireland, the present wish of a majority of the people of Northern Ireland, freely exercised and legitimate, is to maintain the Union and, accordingly, that Northern Ireland’s status as part of the United Kingdom reflects and relies upon that wish; and that it would be wrong to make any change in the status of Northern Ireland save with the consent of a majority of its people;

Emphasis mine; those passages make clear that the reference is to Northern Ireland's status as part of the territory of the United Kingdom; that should not be extrapolated out into any other areas of policy such as customs and trade regulations.

  • Thank you. The "status [of NI] as part of the UK" surely includes the existence (or not) of a border between GB and NI? Why am I wrong?
    – 52d6c6af
    Nov 7, 2019 at 15:46
  • 1
    @Ben because you're conflating "National Border" with "Customs Border". "Part of the UK" is a reference to territorial sovereignty, to nationhood. Not to customs controls or the lack thereof.
    – Dan Scally
    Nov 13, 2019 at 13:20

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .