Post-Brexit Blues: EU Wows to Force UK to Stick to Northern Ireland Protocol

Written by | Wednesday, September 1st, 2021

The European Union will force Britain to stick to the Northern Ireland customs protocol and never abandon Dublin during tough talks over the Irish Sea border, the French president warned (26 August). On a visit to Dublin, Emmanuel Macron said the EU would stay united over the Northern Ireland protocol, which the UK wants to renegotiate, as well as post-Brexit fishing rights. “We will not let you down” on Brexit, Macron told Ireland, stressing the EU would remain united on this “existential issue”. Brussels and London can sensibly solve issues over Northern Ireland’s post-Brexit trading arrangements with the right political will, Irish Prime Minister Micheál Martin said after meeting the French leader. The EU had “demonstrated commitment, patience and creativity in its work to implement the protocol”, Macron said, telling Britain that solutions would be found within the framework of the deal it signed up to.
The European Commission resolutely rejected the idea of a renegotiation of the Brexit treaty, but last month agreed to freeze legal action against Britain for making changes to the protocol that Brussels says breach the Brexit divorce deal struck with London. London has also asked for a standstill period that would extend current grace periods on implementing many of the new checks required on trade between Northern Ireland and the rest of the United Kingdom that are due to kick in within weeks.“We will make sure that the agreements signed after very lengthy negotiations will be complied with when it comes to fisheries or with the Northern Ireland protocol,” the French president said.
“The UK has legitimate concerns about the deal, but threatening to tear it up will destroy the trust that’s so vital”, according to Anand Menon and Jill Rutter from‘ UK in a Changing Europe’, a London-based think tank. They also argue that taking responsibility should be the flipside of taking back control. But admissions of responsibility are in short supply in the government document published on the Northern Ireland protocol on Wednesday. The blame shifting should not, however, lead us to ignore the fact that the British government has legitimate concerns about the way the protocol has functioned. And, let’s not forget, it is in the interests of both the UK and the EU (not to mention the Irish government and both communities in Northern Ireland) to come up with a sustainable and workable protocol that irons out some of these wrinkles. Yes, the EU could and should show greater sensitivity to the real problems the protocol is causing. But this document hardly represents the best way of getting it to do so.

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