British Secretary of State for Brexit David Frost has presented a heavily revised version of the post-Brexit Northern Irish protocol, with fewer customs checks and international arbitration, on the eve of European proposals.
The text, which governs the British province’s trade with the rest of the United Kingdom after its departure from the European customs union and single market in January 2021, “cannot last in its current form“, hammered the British diplomat, invoking a”very serious situation“in Northern Ireland.
The revised version would allow, among other things “goods to move practically freely between Northern Ireland, which is de facto part of the European Single Market, and the rest of the United Kingdom“, detailed Mr. Frost, contrasting according to him with the”excessive rigidity“of the first text.
This revised version also plans to introduce a “arbitrage international“to enforce the laws of the single market in Northern Ireland, instead of the only recourse for the moment to one”system of European law controlled by the court of one of the parties“, the European Court of Justice (CJEU).
The protocol was initially established to avoid the return of border infrastructures between the British province and the Republic of Ireland, place of friction during three decades of “Troubles” which opposed unionists, attached to the maintenance of the province within the Kingdom United, and Republicans, supporters of an attachment to Ireland.
But the text is now held responsible for supply difficulties and is accused by the Unionists of creating a border in the Irish Sea, raising fears of a return of tensions. The “Troubles”, which killed 3,500 people, ended in 1998.
Mr. Frost asserts that this new text aims to “ensure that the peace process is not undermined” in the province.
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However, its introduction on the eve of the day when Europeans must present their own solutions sparked the ire of the 27, with Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney accusing London of “reject solutions even before they are published “.
“We await the proposals that will be presented tomorrow by Maros Sefcovic and the Commission, we will be really ready to discuss them – whatever they say – and we will obviously consider them in a serious, comprehensive and positive way.“Mr. Frost said on Tuesday.
But they will have to “make a significant change“, he warned, because if the European Union “persist in this way“and commits”historical error“to cling to a version of the text too close to the first, London could unilaterally suspend the protocol.