There will be no “Renegotiation” of the protocol concluded with the United Kingdom on post-Brexit customs arrangements in Northern Ireland. The European Commission refused, Wednesday, July 21, the request of the British government to organize a moratorium on the subject, the time to renegotiate in depth these measures, at the origin of strong tensions in the British province.
The European bloc is ready to continue the dialogue and to “Find innovative solutions” with London, but “Within the framework of the protocol”, “We will not accept a renegotiation of the protocol”, warned in a statement the vice-president of the European executive, Maros Sefcovic, recalling that these hard-negotiated measures had been ratified by the British Parliament. Mr. Sefcovic also said he was ready to meet as soon as possible David Frost, British Secretary of State for European Affairs, to discuss this subject.
To avoid the return of a border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, the Northern Irish Protocol effectively creates a customs border between the British province, which still benefits from the single European market, and the island of Great Britain. This disrupts the supply of the territory and sows anger within the Unionist community, attached to remaining within the United Kingdom.
“We cannot continue like this”
After threatening to unilaterally suspend the treaty by invoking its Article 16, London, through Secretary of State for European Affairs David Frost, conceded on Wednesday that it was not ” the good moment “. On the other hand, he asked for a renegotiation to arrive at “A new balance”.
“We simply cannot continue like this”, he insisted in the House of Lords, presenting the British demands. “These proposals will require a significant change to the Northern Ireland protocol”, that is why “We think that we must quickly agree on a moratorium”.
According to the document sent to the EU on Wednesday, this status quo included the extension of the grace periods in force for certain measures, as well as the freezing of legal actions brought by the EU. This solution would have made it possible to “Deal with the problems as a whole”, rather than asking for several extensions of grace periods, defended the Minister responsible for Northern Ireland, Brandon Lewis, before the deputies.
Ultimately, the British government asks that British goods intended for the province and not for the European market can access it. ” almost “ without customs controls. He also wants his standards, and not just those of the EU, to be accepted there, so that goods can circulate unhindered.
The EU has always rejected such measures, seeing them as a danger for the integrity of its market, due to the lack of a physical border and control between Northern Ireland and Ireland to the south. The objective of the protocol is precisely to avoid such a border, which could compromise the peace.
Effective since 1is January, it maintains for that the British province in the single market and the European customs union for the goods, by providing for customs controls on the goods arriving in Northern Ireland from Great Britain, separated by the sea.
Unionists consider themselves betrayed and campaign for the abandonment of the protocol. Violent riots left dozens injured in April. The gates of the “walls of peace” separating Catholic and Protestant districts were set ablaze, recalling the years of the Troubles (some 3,500 dead until the 1998 agreement).
Ireland lends to “creative solutions”
To avoid escalating matters, London and Brussels recently reached an interim deal settling the smoldering “sausage war”, allowing Britain to continue for another three months, until September 30, to ship. chilled meat to the British province.
But this temporary solution does not solve the basic problem. Supermarket chain Marks & Spencer warned on Wednesday that it could not, as is, supply the province with all the products it usually supplies at Christmas.
On the front line, Ireland has said it is ready for “Creative solutions”, but noted that the UK had “Decided itself” to apply these rules to leave the European Union.
Joe Biden, who claims his Irish origins, has also expressed his concern, he says he is following the case closely. The US President and his Secretary of State, Anthony Blinken, “Are both determined to make the Good Friday deal stand”, noted on Wednesday on the BBC the special envoy of the United States for the climate, John Kerry.