There has been little public discussion between the major political parties during the current UK General Election  campaign about the detail of the latest version of the proposed Withdrawal Agreement, approved at negotiators' level on 17th October 2019.

In recent days, however, there has been a renewed focus on the real significance of the revised Northern Ireland Protocol, which is probably the core document of the proposed revised Withdrawal Agreement.

A leaked Government document, which has been publicised by the Labour Party, allegedly suggests that there will need to be some checks on goods entering Northern Ireland from Great Britain, presumably to establish whether they are onward bound to Ireland or other parts of the EU. The UK Government in its response appears to be focusing on the fact that there will be no checks on goods moving in the other direction from Northern Ireland to Great Britain.

The Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), speaking through its leader, Arlene Foster, has always made it clear that it rejects the idea of an internal customs border between Northern Ireland and  Great Britain effectively running down the Irish sea. The DUP clearly considers that there is such a border, in all but name, and hence opposes the proposed revised Withdrawal Agreement , which they feel provides fir it.

The current Conservative UK Government says that that there is no such border  and cites Article 4 of the revised Northern Ireland Protocol which states in unequivocal terms:-

"Northern Ireland is part of the customs territory of the United Kingdom."

It is undoubtedly the case, however, that some aspects of EU law would continue to apply in Northern Ireland under the terms of the proposed revised Withdrawal Agreement  and Article 5 paragraph 1 does state:-

"No customs duties shall be payable for a good brought into Northern Ireland from another part of the United Kingdom by direct transport... unless that good is at risk of subsequently being moved into the [EU] , whether by itself or forming part of another good following processing."

There is , however, no express reciprocal provision dealing with the transfer of goods the other way, from Northern Ireland to Great Britain  -  perhaps there does not need to be, because  so the argument goes) Northern Ireland and Great Britain are both part of the United Kingdom anyway, which is a sovereign state and in relation to which the transfer of goods within its borders is an internal matter and not a proper subject for treaty legislation. 

The technicalities of the proposed revised Withdrawal Agreement are not an easy subject for political sound-bites in a heavily contested political campaign but may come back into the public foreground once the  UK General Election is out of the way.