27th Sep 2021

EU again rejects UK demand on Northern Ireland

  • The EU's Brexit point man, Maroš Šefčovič heads to Northern Ireland to learn about concrete problems (Photo: European Commission)
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EU Commission vice-president Maroš Šefčovič on Wednesday (8 September) once again rejected the UK's demand to renegotiate the Northern Ireland protocol that governs the relationship between the province the EU and the UK in the post-Brexit era.

Šefčovič told reporters that he was "absolutely convinced" that good solutions can be found within the protocol.

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The EU's Brexit negotiator spoke ahead of his first-ever visit to Northern Ireland on Thursday.

He said his aim was "to listen very carefully what are the concrete problems the people of Northern Ireland are facing because of the Brexit, and type of Brexit, chosen by the UK government".

"Let's focus on the concrete problem. Let's not try to renegotiate the protocol. This is definitely not our aim and I believe that we can find the good solution to the outstanding issues," he said before his visit.

Šefčovič added that there is "enough creativity and goodwill to solve" the issue.

The protocol was agreed between London and Brussels as part of the EU-UK divorce agreement.

It keeps some of the EU rules in place in Northern Ireland on checks on goods arriving from the UK, as the border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland became a new EU external frontier.

The EU argued for keeping the rules in place to avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland, which could flare up sectarian divisions there.

While London had earlier agreed to the arrangement, it has since said that it wants it changed - arguing it has pit barriers between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK.

British prime minister Boris Johnson reiterated his government's demand for renegotiation on Wednesday, telling parliament that the protocol, as it was being applied, was not protecting the Good Friday peace agreement.

London announced on Monday that it is once again postponing the implementation of border checks on goods travelling to Northern Ireland, due to kick in within weeks, this time without giving an end date.

The UK's Brexit minister David Frost said the standstill would "provide space for potential further discussions" with the EU over the two sides' differences on the Brexit divorce agreement.

The EU has previously started a legal procedure against the UK for not implementing the agreed checks, but since than halted the procedure.

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