Britain will insist on need for ‘significant change’ in Northern Ireland protocol
LONDON (Reuters) – Britain will tell the European Union again next week that a “significant change” to the Northern Ireland protocol is vital for restoring genuinely good relations between London and Brussels.
The protocol was part of the Brexit divorce settlement that Prime Minister Boris Johnson negotiated with the EU, but London said it had to be rewritten within a year of its entry into force due to obstacles facing companies face when importing British products into the province.
European Commission Vice-President Maros Sefcovic, who oversees post-Brexit relations with Britain, said on Thursday that the EU executive would finalize measures to address post-Brexit trade concerns next week. Brexit in Northern Ireland by the end of the year or early 2022.
But Sefcovic reiterated that he would not renegotiate the protocol and that solutions would have to be found in the terms of an agreement designed to keep an open border between Northern Ireland and EU member Ireland.
The European Commission’s measures are expected to be presented on Wednesday.
British Brexit Minister David Frost is due to deliver a speech to the diplomatic community in the Portuguese capital, Lisbon on Tuesday.
He is expected to say that endless negotiation is not an option and that London will have to act using the Article 16 safeguard mechanism if solutions cannot be agreed quickly, according to excerpts from his speech released by his office Saturday.
Article 16 allows each party to take unilateral action if the protocol is deemed to have a negative impact.
“No one should doubt the gravity of the situation (…) The EU must now show ambition and will to tackle head-on the fundamental issues at the heart of the protocol,” said the transcript of the speech. .
“UK-EU relations are under strain, but it doesn’t have to be that way. By putting the Protocol on a lasting basis, we have the opportunity to overcome the difficulties of the past year. “
Frost should also signal a willingness to free the protocol from the oversight of European judges.
“The role of the European Court of Justice (ECJ) in Northern Ireland and the failure of the British government to implement the very sensitive provisions of the protocol in a reasonable manner have created a profound imbalance in the functioning of the protocol”, a- he added. said the transcript.
“Without new provisions in this area, the Protocol will never have the support it needs to survive.
Reacting to the publication of Frost’s position on the ECJ, Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney said the UK government has created a new ‘red line’ barrier to progress it knows the EU cannot cross. .
“Real Q: Does UKG really want an agreed way forward or a further break in the relationship? Coveney said on Twitter.
Report by James Davey in London; Additional reporting by Padraic Halpin in Dublin Editing by Helen Popper and Paul Simao