Skip to main content

Brexit and a little controversy over a proposed permanent EU delegation office in Northern Ireland

On 27 April 2020, Penny Mordaunt, the UK Government Paymaster- General and the alternate UK Co-Chair of UK-EU Withdrawal Agreement Joint Committee, wrote to Michel Barnier, the Head of the EU negotiating team, and Helga Maria Schmid of the European External Action Service, rejecting the EU's request to establish a permanent office in Northern Ireland to monitor the implementation of Ireland/Northern Ireland Protocol to the Withdrawal Agreement.

Ms Mordaunt wrote that the establishment of such an office is not required by the Withdrawal Agreement (including the Protocol) and that there is no need for the establishment of such an office. This is because monitoring can be undertaken by other means, such as ad hoc visits by EU officials.

She said that the establishment of such "a special EU office, uniquely in the regions and nations of the UK, in order to implement a Protocol that has attracted controversy, would in our view be divisive in political and community terms. Both parties should, therefore, work to find a way to implement the Protocol's requirements which is less contentious and more likely to deliver the necessary results." 

The EU side has emphasised for its part that the preservation of peace in Northern Ireland, including the continued implementation of the Good Friday Agreement,remains a paramount objective of the Brexit arrangements.

This disagreement would not seem to be major but it does illustrate the obstacles that have to be overcome in order to reach the desired final destination of a new UK-EU post-Brexit relationship  to apply following the end of the transition period (currently due to expire on 31 December 2020).