From oven-ready to indigestible: the Protocol on Ireland/Northern Ireland

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C R G Murray


Brexit, EU/UK Withdrawal Agreement, Northern Ireland, implementation, enforcement


Boris Johnson repeatedly presented the EU/UK Withdrawal Agreement to the UK electorate as an ‘oven-ready’ deal amid campaigning for the December 2019 general election. Subsequent events, however, have illustrated just how much of the deal remained to be worked out before the Protocol on Ireland/Northern Ireland could actually be put on the table in the way Johnson sold the dish to the electorate, and the degree to which its implementation (the spell in the microwave, as Johnson extended his metaphor) would be contingent upon the progress of the EU/UK Future Relationship negotiations. This article examines the fissures which rapidly emerged between the UK and the EU over significant elements of the Protocol, and whether Johnson’s deal was inherently more unstable than the deal negotiated by his predecessor Theresa May. It explores how these profound divisions over its terms prevented the implementation of the Protocol as drafted and what might be left of the Protocol in the wake of the Northern Ireland Protocol Bill.

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