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Under the Protocol the UK government is responsible for applying checks on goods entering NI from Great Britain to ensure that goods destined for the Republic of Ireland meet EU regulations. This is to avoid a "hard border" between the Republic and NI - i.e. avoid any need for checks at the land border.

The UK government has made clear that, in accordance with the Good Friday/Belfast Agreement, it would never, under any circumstances, undertake any checks at the land border.

Article 16 of the Protocol states that "if the application of this Protocol leads to serious economic, societal or environmental difficulties that are liable to persist, or to diversion of trade, the Union or the United Kingdom may unilaterally take appropriate safeguard measures. Such safeguard measures shall be restricted with regard to their scope and duration to what is strictly necessary in order to remedy the situation. Priority shall be given to such measures as will least disturb the functioning of this Protocol."

The UK government believes that the Protocol has resulted in diversion of trade (and it is difficult to dispute this as a factual proposition) and so is entitled to take Art 16 safeguard measures. It has not yet done so but says it may have to soon.

If the UK did take Art 16 safeguard measures which resulted in less checks on goods entering NI from GB and that resulted in goods circulating in the Republic which had not been checked for compliance with EU regulations:

1.Would the EU tell the Republic of Ireland that it must make checks on goods crossing the land border from NI to the Republic?

2.If the answer to 1 is Yes, would the Republic do what the EU tells it to do (and so breach the Good Friday/Belfast Agreement) or would the Republic stand its ground and refuse to do what the EU tells them to do?

3.If the Republic did stand its ground, and refuse to implement a hard land border, what is the EU likely to do in response?

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  • The Good Friday agreement contains no language whatsoever prohibiting customs checks at the border, nor does any party to the agreement undertake not to introduce them
    – phoog
    Nov 10 '21 at 1:59
  • I’m afraid questions asking for predictions for future events or hypothetical scenarios are generally off-topic on this site - how are we to know which answers are correct?
    – CDJB
    Nov 10 '21 at 7:48
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    @CDJB I have seen some questions on Politics SE which have an element of the hypothetical. Does it make a difference how the question is framed? For example if I were to ask the question "If the EU adopted a regulation requiring customs checks on the Ireland land border, would that be welcomed in London and Dublin?" that is a hypothetical question but it is a question which can be answered with virtually 100% certainty given a) a history of consistent policy statements by London and Dublin b.) the reactions of London and Dublin when the EU last proposed this (in Jan 2021 for vaccines).
    – Nemo
    Nov 10 '21 at 10:36
  • @CDJB I'm not proposing to ask that specific question but it is just an example of how a reasonable answer can, in some circumstances, be attempted to a hypothetical.
    – Nemo
    Nov 10 '21 at 10:46
  • @Nemo I’d say a version of that question could definitely be on-topic, but I think the framing needs to be even tighter than the title you suggested - perhaps specifically asking for references to statements from government figures in London or Dublin. Useful discussion on meta: politics.meta.stackexchange.com/questions/2665/…
    – CDJB
    Nov 10 '21 at 11:40
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The EU could conclude that the UK did not negotiate and sign in good faith and react accordingly in any or all policy areas, not just directly in NI. Sefcovic called it "serious also for EU-UK relations in general" in a recent statement. Also see the statements at the end of this article by the Irish deputy PM.

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  • The statements in the article by the Tánaiste seem to assume that trade policy would definitely be included in any reaction by the EU (whatever other policy areas may also be affected) so I think the question is still valid.
    – Nemo
    Nov 10 '21 at 10:41

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