Northern Ireland protocol ‘not the problem’ says EU ambassador
The Northern Ireland Protocol – agreed in the Brexit deal – was one of the biggest issues during negotiations between the EU and UK last year. It was designed to keep trade flowing smoothly on the island and to avoid a hard border and checkpoints.
Brussels and the UK have been locking horns over the Protocol, which Britain is refusing to implement as it claims it jeopardises trade between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK.
But now, Emma Little-Pengelly – the special adviser to the Northern Ireland First Minister – has highlighted the clause which shows the rules can be changed.
She tweeted: “To talk about changing the Protocol, even in its entirety is not at all contrary to the Protocol nor a breach of international law.
“In fact, Article 13.8 provides for any part or its entirety to be superseded by agreement after the WA agreement comes into effect.”
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According to Ms Little-Pengelly, the WA clause states: “Any subsequent agreement between the Union and the United Kingdom shall indicate the parts of this Protocol which it supersedes.
“Once a subsequent agreement between the Union and the United Kingdom becomes applicable after the entry into force of the Withdrawal Agreement this Protocol shall then, from the date of application of such subsequent agreement and in accordance with the provisions of that agreement setting out the effect of that agreement on this Protocol, not apply or shall cease to apply, as the case may be, in whole or in part.”
In her lengthy Twitter thread, the special adviser said the major problem with the Protocol is it applied an “EU regime on 100 percent of goods” coming into Northern Ireland.
She continued: “The major problem with the Protocol is that is applied an EU regime on 100 percent of goods coming to NI, to prevent any (light touch) off-border or intelligence-led checks on the 11-15 percent of goods that were destined to go to ROI and into the EU single market.
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“This then captured a huge range of goods that are, in reality, no threat to the EU single market at all.
“This includes goods for supermarkets only operating in NI, packaged clearly for NI and in sterling, for commercial sale entirely within NI with no real risk to the EU.”
She went on to say how the regime is “not risk-based” nor “proportionate” unlike traditional border regimes.
Concluding her Twitter thread, she said: “These serious concerns were raised continuously at the time, yet ignored.
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“This isn’t an outworking of Brexit but rather an ill-thought-out ‘solution’ created in a context of hysteria.”
Trust between the bloc and Britain was badly damaged in January when the EU moved to block the export of COVID-19 vaccines to Northern Ireland.
The decision was reversed but the EU’s willingness to use override the protocol using its “Article 16” emergency provisions during a health crisis caused cross-party shock.
Brexit minister Lord Frost is urging the EU to show “pragmatism and common sense” in resolving continuing differences over the implementation of the Withdrawal Agreement in Northern Ireland.
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Lord Frost said: “Further threats of legal action and trade retaliation from the EU won’t make life any easier for the shopper in Strabane who can’t buy their favourite product.
“Nor will it benefit the small business in Ballymena struggling to source produce from their supplier in Birmingham.
“What is needed is pragmatism and common sense solutions to resolve the issues as they are before us.
“This work is important. And it is ever more urgent.”
The major problem with the Protocol is that is applied an EU regime on 100% of goods coming to NI, to prevent any (light touch) off-border or intelligence-led checks on the 11-15% of goods that were destined to go to ROI and into the EU single market 1/3
— Emma Little-Pengelly (@little_pengelly) June 8, 2021
His appeal came after European Commission vice president Maros Sefcovic said the EU would act “swiftly, firmly and resolutely” if the UK tried to backtrack on its obligations under the Northern Ireland Protocol in the agreement.
Downing Street insisted there could be no justification for preventing chilled meats from the rest of the UK being sold in Northern Irish shops, while Environment Secretary George Eustice said the suggestion was “bonkers”.
It came after Mr Sefcovic raised the prospect of a trade war – with Brussels imposing tariffs and quotas on British exports – if the UK failed to meet its international obligations under the protocol.