On 25 November 2021, the Commission adopted its revised Communication on the Criteria for the analysis of the compatibility with the internal market of State aid to promote the execution of important projects of common European interest (“IPCEI”). This is particularly relevant for companies who have breakthrough innovative projects and need to seek public support

The Background

In 1998, the UK and The Republic of Ireland signed the Good Friday Agreement (GFA) bringing to an end 30 years of conflict in N Ireland.  The GFA was possible at least in part because both the UK and Ireland were Member States of the EU, meaning there were no external borders to the EU or the UK in Ireland and enabling EU Law to provide a legal framework.

The GFA, strongly supported by the US and the EU, relied at its core, on mutual acceptance – S Ireland and Irish Nationalists accepted that N. Ireland was part of the UK and the UK agreed to remove physical security infrastructure on the N/S Ireland Border.

The issue of borders is at once problematic and emblematic, with the Unionist community feeling strongly that N. Ireland is part of the UK and the Nationalist community objecting to a N/S Ireland border as a physical barrier to their long-terms hopes of Irish reunification. The GFA accordingly struck a careful crafted and very delicate balance between the two communities.

Brexit…

Brexit upset that delicate balance.  The Nationalist community largely voted Remain, whilst the Unionist community largely voted Leave.  N. Ireland overall voted to remain in the EU.  The UK’s departure from the EU meant that the N/S Ireland border became not only the border between Ireland and the UK, but the only land border between the mainland UK and the EU.

To preserve the benefits of the GFA whilst protecting the EU’s Single Market, the UK and the EU agreed the Northern Ireland Protocol (NIP), which preserved the Common Travel Area between the UK and Ireland and left N. Ireland in the UK’s Customs Union, but the EU’s Single Market – effectively placing the UK/EU border for Customs Controls in the N Sea between GB and N. Ireland for goods ‘at risk’ of entering the EU via N. Ireland. This arrangement avoided a ‘hard border’ between N and S Ireland and meant that N. Ireland was the only part of the UK to benefit from being in both Unions at the same time.

What has happened since January 2020?

The immediate consequences both of Brexit itself and the NIP are an increase in trade between N. and S. Ireland and a reduction in trade between Ireland and the UK as EU produce (inbound and outbound) has increasingly been dispatched by sea direct from S. Ireland to the European Mainland, by-passing the UK which had been used as a land-bridge for Irish exports whilst the UK was in the EU.

These two changes have raised concerns amongst the Unionist community that the longer-term impact of Brexit and of the NIP is to increase the chances of a United Ireland (the GFA allowed for the possibility of a Border Poll should communities so wish). This concern, added to the number of checks on GB/N Ireland exports, has led to a deterioration in security in N Ireland.  It is against this complicated backdrop that the EU and the UK are seeking to tweak the NIP to facilitate trade between GB and N. Ireland and reduce the number of customs checks carried out on that border.

Article 16….

Buried in the midst of the NIP is the now infamous Article 16 which states at paragraph 1 “If the application of this Protocol leads to serious economic, societal or environmental difficulties that are liable to persist, or to diversion of trade… [one side]… may unilaterally take appropriate safeguard measures”.  Paragraph 2 notes “If a safeguard measure taken…. in accordance with paragraph 1 creates an imbalance between the rights and obligations under this Protocol, the [other side] may take such proportionate rebalancing measures as are strictly necessary to remedy the imbalance.”

UK Complaints

The UK is concerned that the application of the NIP has imposed significant new customs formalities on GB-N. Ireland exporters, resulting in extra costs and discouraging trade.  Under the NIP, after a series of grace periods, the UK was supposed to gradually bring in checks on a broadening range of goods and products exported from GB to N. Ireland.  However, as the impact of those checks became clear, the UK took the decision to unilaterally suspend them.

Of particular concern to the UK government are:
Continue Reading The EU, The UK and The Northern Ireland Protocol (again!)

On November 26, 2021, the Court of Justice of the EU (“CJEU”) held in Case C-102/20 that the display of advertising messages in an electronic inbox in a form similar to that of an actual email constitutes direct marketing, and therefore is subject to EU Member States’ rules on direct marketing (see press release here

According to a leaked draft, on November 4, 2021, the Council of the European Union (“Council”) and the European Parliament (“Parliament”) agreed a number of amendments to the following three chapters of the draft ePrivacy Regulation, which will replace the ePrivacy Directive 2002/58/EC and has been pending since January 2017):

  • Chapter III (End-Users’ Rights

The European Commission seeks stakeholders’ feedback until 18 November on its proposal to define cross-border projects in the field of renewable energy generation that would be eligible to receive EU funding under Connecting European Facility instrument.

In July 2021, the European Union adopted its Connecting Europe Facility (CEF) program for the period 2021-2027 worth EUR

Covington’s Senior Advisor Carl Bildt, former prime minister and foreign minister of Sweden, analyses the key trends expected to drive geopolitics and business over the near term.

Globally, strategic competition between the United States and China, and to some extent with a revisionist Russia, continues to be a source of geopolitical tensions. At the

Last month, the US-EU Trade and Technology Council (TTC) held its inaugural ministerial in Pittsburgh: US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo, and Trade Representative Katherine Tai met with European Commissioners Margrethe Vestager and Valdis Dombrovskis. Only three months after the TTC process was launched at the US-EU summit, the two sides

The European Commission Vice President and Co-Chair of the Europe-UK Joint Committee, Maroš Šefčovič,  spoke to a meeting of the Irish Institute of International and European Affairs yesterday about the Ireland/Northern Ireland protocol.  He spoke of the political risk and the efforts being made to reach a compromise between the EU and the UK on

On 26 August 2021, the UK Government unveiled a package of announcements which effectively set out its post-Brexit data strategy.

This blog looks at the politics around the costs and benefits of a Brexit divergence dividend in this sector, which the UK Government views as a key area of competitive advantage.

High-Level Content of the

Lobbying.  The descriptor we use for seeking to influence key decision makers. It’s been a part of commercial life for centuries and many societal structures were and are built on it such as the medieval guilds, modern trade associations, and a myriad of other bodies who exist to influence, persuade and argue.  Law firms too.