Brexit battle looms as Ireland’s Coveney warns of breakdown in EU-UK relations

NI Protocol: Hoey fumes at claims it 'isn't damaging' for Ireland

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Lord David Frost is expected to warn his EU counterpart that the current terms of the Northern Ireland Protocol are a “red line” for the UK. The protocol has effectively kept the province in the Single Market, creating checks on goods travelling between it and the rest of the UK.

This situation is unacceptable to Downing Street, which is expected to unilaterally suspend swathes of the protocol if Brussels refuses to make “significant changes” to the current deal.

As well as putting the UK and EU at loggerheads, it could also see the Government clash with the House of Lords and Supreme Court.

Simon Coveney, Irish Foreign Minister, blasted the reports on social media.

He said: “EU working seriously to resolve practical issues with implementation of Protocol.

”So UKG (government) creates a new ‘red line’ barrier to progress, that they know EU can’t move on…. are we surprised?

“Real Q: Does UKG actually want an agreed way forward or a further breakdown in relations?”

According to The Telegraph, Lord Frost, the Cabinet Office minister, will tell Maroš Šefčovič, Vice-President of the European Commission, removing European Court of Justice (ECJ) oversight of the protocol is a “red line” for Britain.

In a speech on Tuesday, he will warn “no one should be in any doubt about the seriousness of the situation”.

He is expected to add: “The commission have been too quick to dismiss governance as a side issue. The reality is the opposite.”

Lord Frost is also expected to unveil “a new legal text” reflecting the UK’s proposals, which will insist a new Protocol should form part of the recent UK-EU trade agreement.

In response to Mr Coveney’s Twitter post, Lord Frost defended the UK’s demands for a revised Northern Ireland Protocol.

He said: “I prefer not to do negotiations by Twitter, but since Simon Coveney has begun the process, the issue of governance & the CJEU is not new.

“We set out our concerns three months ago in our 21 July Command Paper.

“The problem is that too few people seem to have listened. We await proposals from Maroš Šefčovič.

“We will look at them seriously & positively whatever they say. We will discuss them seriously and intensively.

“But there needs to be significant change to the current situation if there is to be a positive outcome.”

Mr Šefčovič will set out the EU’s response to the UK’s demands, with reports on Saturday the bloc’s proposals would be “substantive and far-reaching”.

However, concessions allowing “national identity goods” such as sausages to enter Northern Ireland was dismissed by UK sources as only addressing a “tiny” part of the problem.

In the event that the EU refuses “significant changes” both to remove trade barriers between Britain and Northern Ireland and eliminate the role of the ECJ,

Number 10 is planning to trigger Article 16 of the Protocol in order to unilaterally suspend parts of the agreement.

It comes as Sir Jeffrey Donaldson, leader of the DUP, claimed Boris Johnson agreed with his view that the UK should trigger Article 16 “if the EU does not step up and restore Northern Ireland’s place within the UK internal market”.

He wrote in The Telegraph: “If the EU does not step up and restore Northern Ireland’s place within the UK internal market, then the United Kingdom must take unilateral action to do just that.

“That, too, was the position echoed by the Prime Minister when I met him last Monday.”

He also added: “There are practical solutions out there that facilitate the free flow of goods within the United Kingdom whilst also protecting the integrity of the EU Single Market.

“Where we stand today is still some way from a successful outcome, but progress has been made over the course of the last 100 days.”

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