The European Union rejected a demand by Britain that the deal that was signed just about a year ago between the UK and the EU and one that oversees the problematic post-Brexit trade involving Northern Ireland should be rewritten.
The Brexit settlement between the UK and the EU included the Northern Ireland protocol which ultimately sealed the exit of the UK from the EU four years after the country formally decided to leave the then 28 member single market after a referendum.
Trade is being damaged in Northern Ireland, say some businesses situated there while some of the pro-British groups are concerned about the weakening ties of Northern Ireland with Britain and the spectre of violence that had crippled the province for three decades.
“We cannot go on as we are,” Brexit minister David Frost told parliament on Wednesday.
A new “balance” for eliminating EU oversight of the accord is demanded by London, he said, and added that there were rights with Britain to deviate from parts of the deal with the EU unilaterally.
The Northern Ireland protocol could not be redrawn, reiterated European Commission Vice President Maros Sefcovic and said that the protocol had been negotiated between British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Frost.
“We will not agree to a renegotiation of the protocol,” he said. “Respecting international legal obligations is of paramount importance.”
The biggest sticking point in the completion to the Brexit deal was the Northern Ireland border so that the delicate peace brought to the province by a United States-brokered 1998 peace accord was ensured by maintaining an open border and yet not open a back door through neighbouring Ireland to the 450 million rich customer of EU’s single market.
According to the deal, checks on goods between the British mainland and Northern Ireland, which is still within the EU customs area, have to be conducted. Such checks have turned out to be a burden on companies and for some unions which are very supportive of the province remaining part of the United Kingdom.
British parliament had signed and approved the Brexit deal in December 2020.
But the new arrangement was not functioning as Britain had expected, Frost said, and added that invoking Article 16 of the protocol had enough grounds, Under this Article, either side of the deal can dispense with its terms if such terms prove to be unexpectedly harmful.
“Nevertheless…we have concluded that is not the right moment to do so,” he said. “We see an opportunity to proceed differently, to find a new path to seek to agree with the EU through negotiations, a new balance in our arrangements covering Northern Ireland, to the benefit of all.”
The EU would study British proposals constructively to find a positive way forward he said.,
The EU has refused to amend the protocol despite repeated British complaints over concerns that such changes would allow the already hard-to-police border with EU member Ireland for goods that do not meet the bloc’s regulatory standards, to easily enter the EU single market.
“We will continue to engage with the UK, also on the suggestions made today,” Sefcovic said in a statement. “We are ready to continue to seek creative solutions, within the framework of the protocol, in the interest of all communities in Northern Ireland.”
(Adapted from Independent.co.uk)