The European Union (EU) is to outline new proposals later for the part of the Brexit deal that covers Northern Ireland.
Their proposals will cover customs, agri-food, medicines and the role of Northern Ireland politicians.
The current arrangement avoids a hard border on the island of Ireland by keeping Northern Ireland in the EU’s single market for goods.
But it creates a new trade border with Great Britain which unionists say undermines their place in the UK.
The European Commission Vice President, Maros Šefčovič, said the new proposals for the Northern Ireland Protocol would be “very far-reaching” and that he hoped they would be seen as such.
The proposals are understood to include a unique agri-food deal aimed at sharply reducing the checks on products moving from Great Britain to Northern Ireland.
There will also be an arrangement to allow the continued sale of chilled meats from Great Britain in Northern Ireland; these products were facing a ban.
The EU has also said it is going to change its laws in an attempt to solve regulatory issues which are posing a threat to the supply of medicines to Northern Ireland.
Ireland’s Foreign Minister Simon Coveney said the proposals reflected “months of hard work, careful listening across Northern Ireland and will deliver practical solutions to make the protocol work better”.
“I hope UK government is serious about moving on in partnership,” he added.
On Tuesday, the UK’s Brexit minister Lord Frost proposed plans for an entirely new protocol to replace the existing one.
As part of these plans, the UK government wants to reverse its previous agreement on the oversight role of the European Court of Justice, which is the EU’s highest court.
The agreement states that the ECJ has jurisdiction to rule on matters of EU law in Northern Ireland – so for example, if there was a dispute around complying with applicable EU law, the EU could take the UK to the ECJ.
In a speech to diplomats in Portugal on Tuesday, Lord Frost described his new legal text as “a better way forward”.
He said his proposed text would amend the Northern Ireland protocol and support the Good Friday Agreement.
“We have a short, but real, opportunity to put in place a new arrangement, to defuse the political crisis that is brewing, both in Northern Ireland and between us,” he said.
However, the EU has repeatedly said that the ECJ must have the final say on any matters of EU law in the protocol.
It is expected that the two sides will engage in intense talks during November.
The UK has threatened to trigger Article 16 of the protocol if those talks cannot reach an agreement.
Doing that would suspend parts of the protocol.
Sir Jeffrey Donaldson, the leader of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) – Northern Ireland’s largest unionist party – has warned that it may quit Stormont if its demands over the protocol are not met.
He has claimed pressure from unionists had led the EU to table its new proposals.
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