The European Commission’s Vice-President has rejected claims the EU is using Northern Ireland to punish the UK for Brexit after a senior politician accused the bloc’s actions of having a “devastating impact” on the region. DUP leader Edwin Poots told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show that Northern Ireland was being used as a “plaything” by Europe in a political battle between the EU and the UK. Mr Poots said Westminster had grounds to trigger Article 16 of the Protocol, which would allow either side to suspend parts of the agreement, due to “economic and societal damage”.
He added: “We have violence on our streets in Northern Ireland, which hasn’t been the case for years, and that’s on the back of this Protocol.”
However, Maros Sefcovic firmly rejected Mr Poots’ claims, arguing that the bloc searched for four years for the “best solution to the very sensitive situation in Northern Ireland”.
Ever since Britain voted to leave in 2016, many people have accused Brussels of wanting to harm the UK as a deterrent to other countries that might have been thinking of leaving themselves.
In 2017, Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who at the time was serving as Foreign Secretary, even warned France against dishing out any World War 2-style “punishment beatings” because Britain decided to leave the EU.
Mr Johnson said it would have not been in anyone’s interest to penalise Britain for exiting the EU, comparing proposed trade tariffs to punishments meted out to escaped prisoners in World War 2 movies.
His comments came shortly after former Prime Minister Theresa May confirmed Britain was going to leave the single market.
Mr Johnson told delegates at a political conference in New Delhi: “I think that if Monsieur Hollande wants to administer punishment beatings to anybody who chooses to escape, rather in the manner of some sort of World War 2 movie, then I don’t think that is the way forward.
“I think it’s actually not in the interest of our friends and our partners.”
A few days before, Mrs May said Britain would look to strike a new customs agreement with the EU.
However, former French President Francois Hollande consistently said Britain would have not been granted better trading terms outside the single market.
Although the French government declined to respond to Mr Johnson’s remarks, Guy Verhofstadt, the lead Brexit negotiator for the European Parliament, branded them “abhorrent and deeply unhelpful”.
JUST IN: Biden’s U-turn on Nord Stream 2 to ‘co-opt Merkel into China policy
“Just look at the eurozone… if they were thinking about economics, the eurozone would have never covered all the countries that are in the monetary union today.
“How the economy behaves is not the same in all the euro countries so they just did this as a step towards integration, to push for a federal state.”
Mr Guðmundsson added: “I can say this: if the leaders of the EU are so convinced that their club is a desirable one and the British are making a huge mistake, then why should they make life difficult for Britain?
“Why shouldn’t they help them? Knowing that in a few years Britain would recognise its mistake and come back asking for membership again?
“The EU would be in a much stronger position to ask for certain things and ask them to adopt the euro, for example.”
He concluded: “Why are they trying to make an example of Britain for other EU members?
“It suggests EU leaders don’t have much confidence in this project and that they don’t actually believe it is a great club to be in.”