According to reports, the French President is putting pressure on the EU to get tougher against Downing Street in the resolution of the Brexit Nort
According to reports, the French President is putting pressure on the EU to get tougher against Downing Street in the resolution of the Brexit Northern Ireland Protocol negotiations. The European Commission is expected to outline by the end of September plans that could ease the movement of goods from Britain to Northern Ireland in an effort to ease tensions resulting from Brexit, EU diplomats said.
The EU rejected a UK demand to renegotiate the new trading position of the British province. But a deputy head of the bloc’s executive Commission, Maros Sefcovic, last week promised “creative and solid new solutions” under the current deal.
Under the so-called protocol, Britain agreed to leave some EU rules in place in Northern Ireland and accept checks on goods arriving there from the rest of the United Kingdom, in order to preserve an open land border with Ireland, an EU member state.
But London has since said that was not working and must be changed.
EU diplomats said the Commission’s new ideas, which also include greater involvement of politicians and others in Northern Ireland, would be announced this month.
“Possible solutions would centre around making existing checks less laborious, limiting the amount of paperwork needed,” said one EU diplomat who deals with Brexit, adding the Commission might propose legal changes on the 27 nations’ side to give room for greater leniency towards Britain.
But Politico reported that “frustration at the Brits is simmering in national capitals”.
They added: “Calls for the EU to put its foot down are growing — especially from France, which is fiercely protective of the single market.”
And French Ambassador to the UK Catherine Colonna wrote on Tuesday: “‘The reason the UK is so belligerent is precisely because the EU is so accommodating’ is an opinion we hear more and more here. Troubling.”
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The new package is expected to go beyond previous Commission proposals that included passage for guide dogs, simpler tagging for livestock and easier circulation of medicines, said a second diplomat.
National ambassadors to the EU are due to discuss the plans on Wednesday, followed by national ministers who deal with European affairs at a meeting on Sept 21.
The extension beyond the end of September of grace periods on further checks and trade limitations the EU deems necessary to protect its single market of 450 million people has given some space for talks.
Britain’s Brexit minister David Frost said on Monday that the EU needed to move in negotiations of the protocol, warning that London could unilaterally suspend it.
The Commission, which oversees EU-UK relations on behalf of the 27 EU countries, has said it is willing to interpret the protocol flexibly, but not renegotiate it, rejecting outright a British call to end oversight by the European Court of Justice.
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On Tuesday, Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s spokesman said that full negotiations are needed with the European Union to resolve issues with the deal governing post-Brexit trade with Northern Ireland.
He said there had been “some elements of progress” since last week.
“We still feel that there needs to be a full negotiation and that needs to begin seriously and begin soon because it mustn’t mean the EU coming up with its own planned solutions and presenting them as take it or leave it,” he told reporters.
On this side of the Channel, frustrations are also running high with former DUP leader Edwin Poots in Northern Ireland saying the EU is “damaging the peace process”.
Mr Poots answered questions at Stormont about the Northern Ireland Protocol and his party’s decision to withdraw from north/south political bodies.
Mr Poots told MLAs that any damage caused by boycotting the cross-border institutions would be less than the damage currently being caused by the protocol.
Mr Poots said: “It will have considerably less of an impact than the Northern Ireland Protocol; well over 70% of our goods which come into Northern Ireland come in from Great Britain, some 419,000 HGVs per annum.
“People cannot just believe that they can drive a coach and horses through east/west relationships without there being some sort of consequence for it.”