The European Union is hoping for relations with Britain to normalise after the expected signing of a deal to resolve the so-called Northern Ireland Protocol this afternoon, officials and politicians have said.

After years of sniping between London and Brussels, the deal to manage trade in the territory offers the promise of a new era of respect and co-operation, allowing the two sides to put the rancour of Brexit behind them, senior figures have told the i.

Sean Kelly, Irish MEP with junior coalition party Fine Gael, said the deal could provide hope and certainty to people and businesses in the region, and help ensure proper representation.

“A resolution of this impasse offers hope for the eventual return of the Northern Ireland Assembly so that the electorate may have proper representation. It is also very important economically, by offering businesses the chance to seize trading opportunities not only in terms of Northern Ireland, but also from an all-island perspective,” he said.

Mr Kelly, the First Vice-Chair of the EU-UK Parliamentary Assembly, warned that the issues over the Protocol, which effectively sets the customs border between Northern Ireland and the rest of the United Kingdom, were an inevitable result of London’s hardline approach. “These difficulties are the predicted consequences following the hard Brexit chosen, and the approach the UK took in implementing the subsequent Brexit deal, even if some elected representatives would like you to conveniently forget their own part in it,” he said.

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The deal is expected to reduce border checks on trade travelling into the EU from Britain, creating a green lane at Irish Sea ports with minimal checks for goods staying within Northern Ireland, while a red lane would handle goods heading into Ireland and the EU single market.

Austrian MEP Andreas Schieder, who co-wrote the European Parliament’s 2021 bill on the EU–UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement, said the deal was a sensible tweak to the existing arrangements. “From the EU perspective, the deal is fine. The red lane and green lane system make sense. The UK had suggested ending the oversight role of the European Court of Justice, but that was clearly a red line. So these are technical changes, and we now need to see if the UK has the will to implement it as well,” he said.

However, Mr Schieder added that the deal was not nearly as important for the EU as it was for the UK. “This story has about the same ranking of importance for us right now as Kosovo’s border row with Serbia. We don’t see it the same way as the UK does.”

Richard Corbett, a former Labour MEP for Yorkshire and the Humber, said he anticipated Northern Ireland’s opposition Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) to object to the customs border in the Irish Sea. “The DUP has thrown up its arms, saying it is outrageous. But why not?” he said. “But it is not unknown to have customs borders at different places to national borders. It happens between France and Switzerland, where they have a customs border in the Pays de Gex, inside France. So, if the DUP raises any objections, it would be purely for show.”

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