01:18 GMT27 September 2020
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    Downing Street is reportedly planning a new bill to protect trade arrangements between the four parts of the UK, but concerns have mounted over the new legislation possibly contradicting the Northern Ireland Protocol, set up to prevent a hard border between the UK part of the island and the independent Irish Republic.

    Ireland’s Foreign Minister, Simon Coveney, suggested that Dublin should in no way overreact to reports that Britain could seek to undermine its Brexit withdrawal agreement, warning, however, that such a push would lead to a serious breach of trust and “fundamentally undermine” ongoing talks.

    “Is this political gamesmanship or is there really a piece of legislation that’s going to emerge this week, which is contrary to the withdrawal agreement. We’ll have to wait and see,” Coveney commented to national broadcaster RTE.

    Reports have emerged alleging that London could be planning updates to the EU withdrawal agreement - the Internal Market Bill - that would create controversy in British-ruled Northern Ireland where there had already been arrangements in place to avoid a hard border with the southern Republic, with frictions potentially harming the peace between the two parts of the island.

    The so-called Northern Ireland Protocol was set up to prevent a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic.

    Communities Against Brexit organised dozens of torchlit protests along the Irish border on 16 October 2019
    © Sputnik / Chris Summers
    Communities Against Brexit protest in Ireland

    The move could change the nature of new Northern Ireland's customs arrangements, intended to prevent a switch back to checks at the border with the Irish Republic, BBC reported.

    Downing Street reportedly suggested that it was a 'Plan B', in case EU-UK trade talks fail.

    Although the UK formally exited the EU in late January, it has continued to follow Brussels-approved regulations during the transition period, which expired on 31 December, 2019, while negotiations between the two parties now center solely on trade arrangements.

    A crunch round of talks - the eighth - begins on Tuesday, aimed at inking a deal to allow companies to trade without taxes or customs checks, with the two contentious points in UK-EU talks continuing to be fisheries and fishing rights in the waters of the British coast, as well as rules on state aid to business.

    The European Commission's Michel Barnier said that, while the UK can retain control over its waters, "the fish which are inside those waters" are "another story", whereas the UK insists it's own trawlers be granted priority.

    Brussels is seeking a "level playing field" on state subsidies that would tie Britain to EU regulations on workers’ rights and state aid to business after the transition period expires – a provision the UK has vehemently refused.


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    UK, Northern Ireland, Ireland, border, hard border, Brexit
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