London and Brussels once again engage in the Northern Ireland Protocol

  • The United Kingdom threat with “act” unilaterally if the European Union does not show flexibility in solving the problems

  • The European Comission responds that adopting unilateral measures is unacceptable and that will have consequences

The entrance on stage Liz TrussUK Foreign Secretary responsible for post-Brexit negotiations, replacing David Frost at the end of last year generated a certain hope in the European ranks at the possibility of stepping on the accelerator in the search for an agreement with London on the border controls and the application of the Northern Ireland Protocol. Six months later the situation is still maximum tension. The UK threatens to “act” if the European Union it shows no flexibility to solve the problems and Brussels responds that adopting unilateral measures is “simply unacceptable”.

“Unilateral action, which involves not applying an international agreement such as the Protocol, is simply unacceptable. It would undermine trust between the EU and the UK and compromise our ultimate goal: to protect the Good Friday (Peace) Agreement in all its dimensions, while ensuring legal certainty and predictability for the citizens and businesses of Northern Ireland. This unilateral action will also undermine the essential conditions for Northern Ireland to continue to have access to the EU’s single market for goods,” warned the Vice President of the European Commission and responsible for negotiations with the United Kingdom, Maros Sefkovicit’s a statement.

Avoid a hard border

His words reveal the disastrous conversation held this Thursday with the British minister, who has advanced that London “will have no choice” but to act unilaterally and skip some parts of the Northern Ireland protocol if the European Union does not show flexibility in its application. The protocol entered into force on January 1, 2021 and is an essential part of the UK’s withdrawal agreement from the EU. Its objective is to prevent the return of a hard border to the island of Ireland and for this it establishes how the customs and sanitary controls should be for the products that arrive in Northern Ireland, which continues to be part of the European internal marketfrom Great Britain.

A year and a half after its entry into force, the negotiations on its application continue to be dominated by threats from London towards the pact it signed Boris Johnson and that threaten to break up after the elections in Northern Ireland. “The Northern Ireland protocol has become the biggest obstacle to forming a Government in Northern Ireland,” Truss told him, who also said that the current situation “is causing unacceptable disruption to trade and has created a two-tier system in which Northern Ireland citizens are not treated in the same way as everyone else in the UK”. The British minister has also reminded Sefcovic of the importance of defending the Good Friday Agreement and has urged him to act with flexibility to remove trade barriers.

Brussels proposals

The community politician has responded that Brussels has already presented proposals that would “substantially” improve the situation. “Recently, in February, we proposed to the UK Government a ambitious schedule of debates sessions on outstanding practical issues raised by citizens and businesses in Northern Ireland. We have made it clear that there is still potential to explore in our proposals. We are still waiting for the response from the British side,” Sefcovic said.

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The Community Executive is convinced that there are solutions that can work but as long as they are not unilateral decisions because “unilateral actions will also undermine the essential conditions for Northern Ireland to continue to have access to the EU’s single market for goods”, he recalled .

In Brussels, the intention of the Government of Boris Johnson to bet on the unilateral route is viewed with great concern. “We need trust and we must remember what unites us and we must avoid unilateral action”, recalled the President of the European Parliament, Roberta Metzola, during the opening of the first parliamentary assembly meeting between the EU and the United Kingdom. A meeting in which Sefcovic has also participated, who has insisted that the British Government has not bothered to fully explore the potential of the Brussels proposals “We must be honest saying that not all the problems caused by the Brexit that required the British government”, “the EU has been consistent, we are not going to renegotiate the Protocol” and “a unilateral action that undermines the protocol is not a solution”, he warned.

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