Britain’s Northern Ireland protocol needs ‘significant change’

Reuters file photo: A ‘No Hard Border’ poster is seen below the road sign on the Irish side of the border between Ireland and Northern Ireland, near Bridgend, Ireland, October 16, 2019.

Written by James Davy

LONDON (Reuters) – Britain will tell the European Union again next week that “significant changes” to the Northern Ireland Protocol are vital to restoring truly good relations between London and Brussels.

The protocol was part of the Brexit divorce settlement, with Prime Minister Boris Johnson in talks with the EU, but London said it would have to rewrite it in less than a year because of barriers to trade when importing British goods into the province.

European Commission Vice-President Maros Sefkovich, who oversees post-Brexit relations with Britain, said on Thursday that EU executives would finalize steps next week to address the post-Brexit trading problem in Northern Ireland by the end of the year or early 2022.

But Sefkovic reiterated that he would not reconsider the protocol, and would have to find solutions within the terms of an agreement designed to keep an open border between Northern Ireland and EU-member Ireland.

The European Commission’s measures are expected to be presented on Wednesday.

Britain’s Brexit minister David Frost will address the diplomatic community in the Portuguese capital, Lisbon, on Tuesday.

He hopes there is no substitute for endless negotiations and that if solutions are not quickly agreed, according to a summary of a speech released from his office on Saturday, London will have to work using Article 16 security measures.

Article 16 allows both parties to take unilateral action if the protocol is deemed to have a negative impact.

“No one should have any doubts about the gravity of the situation … The EU must now show ambition and desire to address the core issues of the Protocol Head,” the transcript of the statement said.

“The UK-EU relationship is in a state of tension, but it doesn’t have to be this way. By keeping the protocol on a sustainable basis, we’ve had the opportunity to overcome last year’s problems.”

Frost is also expected to indicate a desire to free the protocol from the supervision of European judges.

“The role of the European Court of Justice (ECJ) in Northern Ireland and the inability to reasonably implement the highly sensitive provisions in the UK Government Protocol have created a deep imbalance in the way protocols operate,” the transcript said.

“The protocol will not have the support it needs to survive without new systems in this region.”

Reacting to Frost’s position on the ECJ, Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coweni said the British government had created a new “red line” for progress that knew the EU could not move forward.

“The real question: does the UKG really want a further breakdown of the agreed path or relationship?” Coveni said on Twitter (NYSE :).

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