The European Commission (EC) announces this Wednesday in Brussels new proposals to amend the Northern Ireland Protocol aimed at unblocking relations with the United Kingdom, within the framework of Brexit.
At issue is the ‘Brexit’ agreement negotiated by the British Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, in 2019, in which he decided that, upon leaving the European Union, the United Kingdom would also leave the EU customs union, which happened on 01 of January.
However, under the Northern Ireland Protocol, the British province continues to apply EU customs rules and controls, including on certain products arriving from the rest of the UK.
This part of the agreement was negotiated after more than three years of discussions on how to avoid the control of goods along the land border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.
London claims that the new rules are causing unexpected difficulties in the flow of goods and wants them not to apply to those that are exclusively destined for the North Irish market, as it is British territory.
On Tuesday, in Lisbon, where the British Secretary of State for Relations with the European Union (EU) went symbolically, “on behalf of the oldest alliance in the United Kingdom”, to present the London version of the protocol amendments ), David Frost, considered that the document constitutes “the greatest source of distrust” between the two parties, an issue that he intends to see resolved.
In an intervention of almost an hour at the UK ambassador’s residence in Lisbon, Frost highlighted the need to overcome differences, “which is not easy”, criticizing the EU’s “exaggeration moment” when negotiating the protocol, in which the UK was out of balance.
“There is a widespread feeling in the UK that the EU has tried to use Northern Ireland to encourage UK political forces to reverse the referendum result or at least to keep us closely aligned with the EU,” said Frost, insisting that the agreement “is not working”.
In his speech, Frost urged Portugal and the EU to “look carefully” at what London is proposing, recalling that Brussels has already stated that the protocol “can never be improved”, which is contradicted by the fact that it “is causing such significant problems”.
“Let’s see what proposals will bring us Maros Sefcovic [vice-presidente da Comissão Europeia para as Relações Interinstitucionais e Prospetiva, para a reunião de hoje]”, stated Frost.
“To insist on this route would be to do Northern Ireland a disservice and not recognize the iterative improvement process that has kept the balance and sustained the peace process in Northern Ireland over the past few decades. If you do, remember that it is this Government that governs Northern Ireland as well as the rest of the UK. Northern Ireland is not EU territory. It is our responsibility to safeguard peace and prosperity in Northern Ireland, and that could include the use of Article 16, if necessary. We would not follow this path for free or with any particular pleasure,” he warned.