Brexit: Jacob Rees-Mogg weighs in on Northern Ireland Protocol

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The Foreign Secretary held last minute talks with her EU counterpart this morning in a final bid to break through the deadlock over frictions caused by the Northern Ireland Protocol. But European Commission Vice President Maroš Šefčovič stubbornly rejected calls for a compromise saying it would not table new proposals to ease frictions.

A Foreign Office spokesperson said: “The Foreign Secretary outlined why EU proposals would take us backwards, by creating more checks and paperwork.

“Vice President Šefčovič confirmed that there was no room to expand the EU negotiating mandate or introduce new proposals to reduce the overall level of trade friction.

“The Foreign Secretary noted this with regret and said the situation in Northern Ireland is a matter of internal peace and security for the United Kingdom, and if the EU would not show the requisite flexibility to help solve those issues, then as a responsible government we would have no choice but to act.”

It is thought the UK will introduce legislation to overrule aspects of the Protocol as soon as next week.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson is understood to have received assurances from Attorney General Suella Braverman that huge swathes of the agreement can be removed.

Critics have warned that the Northern Ireland Protocol, which was negotiated as part of the 2019 withdrawal agreement, is an international treaty and the UK would be in breach of international law by suspending elements of the deal.

But Ms Braverman believes the damage being caused by the Protocol means Britain is within its rights to introduce new legislation suspending controversial parts of the pact.

The UK has been locked in talks with the bloc since October to try and find a negotiated solution to the issues caused by the deal but ministers have repeatedly been left frustrated by the EU’s failure to engage.

In this morning’s call, Ms Truss said the UK’s “overriding priority is to protect peace and stability in Northern Ireland and said that the Northern Ireland Protocol had become the greatest obstacle to forming a Northern Ireland Executive”.

The Foreign Office spokesperson added: “She reminded Vice President Šefčovič of the importance of defending the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement, and said that the Commission bore a responsibility to show more pragmatism and ensure the Protocol delivered on its original objectives.”

Northern Ireland’s unique political system requires representation from both nationalist and unionist parties to form the ruling executive.

But the Democratic Unionist Party, who finished second in last week’s Northern Ireland Assembly elections, have refused to enter the power-sharing agreement with Sinn Fein until their concerns around the Protocol are addressed.

The stalemate leaves the province without a functioning governing body.

More to follow…

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