Boris Johnson on removing 'unnecessary' barriers for NI trade
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Germany demanded legally binding assurances from the Prime Minister over the introduction of EU-ordered customs checks between Northern Ireland and Great Britain. Europe minister Michael Roth insisted the divorce agreement’s protocol to prevent a hard border was the best way to protect peace and stability in region, even despite weeks of violent disruptions. The German told reporters: “We concluded the comprehensive Trade and Cooperation Agreement that we currently apply on a provisional basis.
“Now we are finalising the remaining steps for its formal ratification. This agreement is the basis for the relationship with the UK, that is fair, balanced and beneficial to both sides.
“Apart from that, it remains crucial that also all parts of the Withdrawal Agreement are fully implementing, including the protocol on Northern Ireland. The peace process in Northern Ireland is a practical example of how European integration has contributed to the resolution of violent conflicts.
“The protocol is key to preserving this achievement under new circumstances.”
Downing Street recently suspended the customs controls on goods being shipped from the mainland and Northern Ireland amid fears of food shortages.
Mr Roth added: “Now we need to agree on a binding timeline for the implementation of the protocol and common strategic outreach to stakeholders in Northern Ireland.”
European affairs ministers met today to discuss plans to force Britain to implement the trade checks.
Britain has called for red tape to be eased after a worrying rise in tensions over a disruption in trade.
But Eurocrats insist trade rules drawn up to deal with Brexit cannot be altered.
To keep the Irish border open, Northern Ireland effectively remains part of the EU’s single market and some checks are now made on some products arriving from the rest of the UK.
Prime Minister Mr Johnson renewed his threat to rip up the pact if it continues to disrupt the lives of ordinary people in the area.
Mr Johnson said some elements of the agreement are “absurd” and need to be “sandpapered into shape”.
“If we can’t make enough progress and if it looks as though the EU is going to be very, very dogmatic about it and we continue to have absurd situations so you can’t bring in rose bushes with British soil into Northern Ireland, you can’t bring British sausages into Northern Ireland, then frankly I’m going to, we’ll have to take further steps,” the PM told the BBC.
“What we’re doing is removing what I think of as the unnecessary protuberances and barriers that have grown up and we’re getting the barnacles off the thing and sandpapering it into shape.”
Lord Frost last week held urgent negotiations with his EU counterpart Maros Sefcovic on the ongoing row over the Northern Ireland Protocol.
The pair agreed to move forward with a joint “work plan” as met for crunch talks over dinner in Brussels.
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They both vowed to find a political solution to the row over the Northern Ireland Protocol to avoid repeat flare-ups of the event spate of violent disruption in Belfast.
No10 said “some positive momentum had been established” during recent technical talks over the issue, but “a number of difficult issues remained and it was important to continue to discuss them”.
The EU agreed there had been “productive discussions” and “good technical co-operation on the ground”.
The protocol has been blamed by some for the tension on the ground in Northern Ireland because Unionists feel that it has driven a wedge between them and the rest of the United Kingdom.
Mr Sefcovic reiterated that he was left furious by a UK move to unilaterally suspend a number of the EU-ordered controls.
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The top eurocrat insisted “that solutions can only be found through joint actions and through joint bodies”.
He told Lord Frost: “Implementation of the protocol is a joint endeavour, which leaves no space for unilateral action.”
The UK’s Brexit chief reassured Brussels that he’s committed to “working through the joint bodies” created by the Brexit deal.
But he warned that the EU needs to respect the Good Friday Agreement in all of its dimensions.
Lord Frost “underlined that any solutions had to be consistent with the overriding commitments to respecting the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement in all its dimensions and to ensuring minimum disruption everyday lives in Northern Ireland”, according to the Downing Street statement.
Whitehall insiders have previously expressed concerns that the often-bureaucratic approach by the EU risks future violent flare-ups.
Officials fear the bloc underestimates Unionist anger over customs controls between Britain and Northern Ireland.
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