The uncertainty presented by Brexit has posed an increasing challenge for many of our clients for over three years.

A major sticking point has been the Irish ‘backstop’, which is designed to prevent the reintroduction of border controls between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. However, in doing so, it keeps Northern Ireland (and to a lesser extent the whole UK) aligned with EU tariffs and regulations on goods. This makes post-Brexit UK trade deals difficult, if not impossible, and appears to be unacceptable to the UK Parliament – preventing acceptance of the Withdrawal Agreement. To address this problem, Prosperity UK’s Alternative Arrangements Commission was set up to develop credible and practical alternative arrangements relating to the Irish border.

The commission’s final report, which was published today, includes two draft protocols contributed by EU and international trade partner Lode Van Den Hende and Brussels-based EU and trade consultant Eric White, who was a member of the European Commission’s Legal Service between 1985 and 2016, where he led the Trade Policy and WTO team.

The protocols capture in legal form a way forward which, if adopted, would avoid both a hard border and the Irish backstop ever being triggered. The hope is this helps shift the Brexit debate into the domain of practical, concrete and legally-viable solutions.

Eric said: “It has been an honour to have drafted the protocols and contributed to the Alternative Arrangements for the Irish Border report. Our aim in preparing the draft protocols is to demonstrate how the solutions proposed in the report can be translated into a form that can easily be inserted into the Withdrawal Agreement as a technical amendment, or be used to mitigate problems on the Irish border if the Withdrawal Agreement should not be concluded for some reason. In drafting the protocols, we have mirrored the existing protocol as closely as possible.”