Brexit: David McCredie discusses UK trade deal with Australia
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The former EU chief negotiator said five months after the United Kingdom’s full exit from the European Union, relations between London and Brussels were still thorny. Mr Barnier spoke out as Stormont Unionist politicians demanded the Northern Ireland Protocol, agreed between London and Brussels as part of the Brexit withdrawal agreement, was scrapped.
The French politician said Britain was making “threats and provocations at Brussels” surrounding the Protocol.
He added: “This failure to respect the agreement on Northern Ireland and the trade agreement will have consequences.
“The British should be very careful.
“The most serious [part of the agreement] is Ireland where it is not a question of trade, of goods but of peace.”
But the UK Government said Michel Barnier and Brussels were “making empty threats or talking rubbish” as Brussels refused to “find a pragmatic solution” for the Northern Ireland Protocol.
A UK Government source added: “The Commission refuses to recognise the impact that the current operation of the protocol is having in Northern Ireland.
“All they want to do is to prioritise the protection of their single market and treat the regulatory boundary as if it were like any other external EU border.
“They [the EU and Michel Barnier] should be ashamed of themselves.”
Cabinet Office Minister Lord Frost today referred to the Protocol as a “very delicately balanced document” designed to support the “very delicately balanced agreement” that brought peace to the region after decades of violence in the Troubles.
Addressing peers in the Lords, he added: “At the moment the Protocol, in our view, is not being implemented in a way that reflects that balance.”
Mr Barnier also tackled the United Kingdom’s position on the ongoing maritime dispute surrounding fishing rights.
France and Britain sent vessels to the Channel island as a flotilla of French trawlers sailed there in protest against the implementation of new licensing restrictions Jersey was expected to introduce on May 6.
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Paris and London have also been at loggerheads over access for French vessels in other parts of the English Channel including in Boulogne and Calais.
He said: “The French fishermen are right, they are asking that we respect this agreement and that we give them the licenses they need in the Channel and around Jersey.
“The British are increasing the constraints.”
He urged the UK Government to cooperate with Paris and Brussels on fishing rights, else he said tariffs between the bloc and the UK could be introduced.
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In a threat to Lord Frost and his UK team, Mr Barnier said: “We can prevent British fishermen from coming to fish in our waters, we can restore tariffs, we can suspend the agreement.”
In a plea to London, Mr Barnier concluded: “I hope that we will be smart enough on both sides to start from this agreement and keep a spirit of cooperation because the truth is that in the world to come, dangerous, unstable, unfair.
“We have many threats ahead of us.
“There will be other crises and we will need to cooperate with the British.”
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