Business & Economy

EU says NI Protocol non-negotiable as UK tables unilateral changes

Brussels, Jun 13 (EFE).- The European Union on Monday said it would not renegotiate the Northern Ireland Protocol after the United Kingdom’s government tabled legislation that would unilaterally scrap some of the agreements in the post-Brexit trade deal.

The European Commission’s vice president Maroš Šefčovič said in a statement that there was no “workable alternative” to the Protocol previously agreed on by Brussels and London.

“Renegotiating the Protocol is unrealistic,” he said. “Any renegotiation would simply bring further legal uncertainty for people and businesses in Northern Ireland. For these reasons, the European Union will not renegotiate the Protocol.

“It is with significant concern that we take note of today’s decision by the UK government to table legislation disapplying core elements of the Protocol,” he added.

“Unilateral action is damaging to mutual trust. The Commission will now assess the UK draft legislation.”

The Protocol was ratified as a measure that kept Northern Ireland in line with European Union customs to ensure free-flowing trade with the Republic of Ireland, an EU member, while respecting its position within the UK.

It was designed to adhere to the Good Friday Agreement, an international peace deal that brought a tentative end to decades of sectarian violence in Northern Ireland and enshrines, among other things, an open border on the island.

The Protocol, however, means that goods flowing from Great Britain to Northern Ireland are required to undergo checks to ensure they meet EU standards, a measure that was vehemently rejected by pro-UK political parties in Northern Ireland as well as members of the ruling Conservative Party in the UK.

Liz Truss, the UK’s foreign secretary, on Monday unveiled plans to dismantle parts of the Protocol in a move that threatened to put London on collision course with Brussels.

The blueprint, which has yet to be debated, will include changes to allow businesses to choose between UK and EU standards when selling in Northern Ireland and introduce so-called green lanes to cut paperwork.

“This Bill will uphold the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement and support political stability in Northern Ireland,” Truss said in a statement.

“It will end the untenable situation where people in Northern Ireland are treated differently to the rest of the United Kingdom, protect the supremacy of our courts and our territorial integrity.”

“We are ready to deliver this through talks with the EU. But we can only make progress through negotiations if the EU are willing to change the Protocol itself – at the moment they aren’t. In the meantime the serious situation in Northern Ireland means we cannot afford to allow the situation to drift.”


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