Today brings some surprising Brexit news. The UK and the EU have announced that they have come to an agreement in principle on all the outstanding issues in the Northern Ireland protocol. As a result, the clauses of the Internal Market Bill, which breached the UK’s international law obligations in a ‘specific and limited way’, will be dropped.
The reason why this is surprising is that the assumption had long been that some of these differences would only be resolved once a trade deal was done. (A tariff-free trade agreement between the UK and the EU would make it much easier to fix various of these issues). The details of the agreement will not be out until tomorrow. So, we will have to wait until then to see precisely how this has been done.
This progress should improve the atmospherics ahead of Boris Johnson's meeting with Ursula von der Leyen this week; the UK is no longer threatening to unilaterally overrule the previous agreement that it signed. But it also means that if the talks fail the UK can walk away with a solution to the Northern Ireland issue and without doing something (going back on the withdrawal agreement) that would bring it into dispute with the incoming Biden administration.