Brexit: EU rules 'out of the question' for UK says Menon
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He used a keynote speech today to raise the stakes in his party’s battle against the Brexit deal’s hated Northern Ireland Protocol. It has been claimed Sir Jeffrey will signal his willingness to abandon the power-sharing arrangements by pulling out of Stormont. His intervention will mark a “significant hardening of the DUP position and will place the onus on London and Brussels or run the risk of dragging Northern Ireland backwards, all the progress made from 2007 will be lost”.
The unionists are vehemently against the Protocol, which they feel has driven a wedge between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK.
Downing Street is currently at loggerheads with the EU over the post-Brexit measures to avoid a hard border.
Brexit minister Lord Frost has warned the border fix has caused severe disruption to trade in the area and that it also threatens the Good Friday peace agreement.
The protocol prevents a hard border with Ireland by essentially keeping Northern Ireland in the EU’s single market for goods.
In order to protect the bloc, there are some checks on products arriving from Great Britain.
Not all of the checks have been fully implemented yet due to previously agreed grace periods from the EU red tape.
Earlier this week, Lord Frost announced that these grace periods would be extended indefinitely to create space for further discussions with Brussels.
Sir Jeffrey hopes to exert influence on the talks by taking a hardline approach to the protocol.
His threat to disband Stormont will cause serious concern in both London and Brussels because of the political fragility in the region.
The DUP leader’s speech coincides with European Commission vice-president Maros Sefcovic’s two-day trip to Northern Ireland.
The top eurocrat, the EU’s Brexit negotiator, will hold meetings with political and business leaders in the hope of establish what the major concerns with the protocol are on the ground.
He has also held talks with Lord Frost for the first time in months to discuss a possible renegotiation of the post-Brexit border fix.
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Speaking ahead of his speech, Sir Jeffrey warned that in the “absence of actual progress, we cannot remain in this political limbo”.
He said the Northern Ireland Protocol “is not just a threat to the economic and constitutional integrity of the United Kingdom, it is having real world impacts on our economy”.
The DUP chief stressed that three key areas within the measures had to be addressed, including the movement of goods, standards and governance.
“This is not simply a question of limiting checks at the border or moving checks from the border,” he said.
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“It must mean that, save for the most limited circumstances EU law would not apply in Northern Ireland.”
Sir Jeffrey added: “It must mean that where there is a dispute we are not being asked to argue our case in front of a judicial system created by one of the parties to that dispute.”
His demands for changes are similar to those being proposed by the UK Government.
Lord Frost has called for the Brexit deal to be ripped open and overhauled in order to remove all trade checks and the European Court of Justice’s powers to police the treaty.
So far, Brussels has rejected any idea that the measures can be renegotiated and believes a solution to the problems in Northern Ireland can be found within the current framework.
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