‘Show some common sense!’ Boris Johnson tells EU to drop relentless Brexit lawsuit threats
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The Prime Minister is urging the European Union to take a “risk-based approach” to the post-Brexit rules governing trade with Northern Ireland. The European Commission launched a lawsuit over the delay of post-Brexit checks in the Irish Sea, to which the UK Government responded denying any infringement of the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement.
Brussels claims it aims to resolve the issue via negotiations but the bloc is adamant a lawsuit remains its Plan B should talks not reached the desired outcome.
The Government has said it regrets the EU’s resorting to legal actions before reaching an agreement via negotiations, urging the bloc to show some common sense.
A spokesman for Mr Johnson said on Monday that the Government is stressing solutions should be found rapidly.
The spokesman told reporters: “We remain committed to working through the issues with the EU and we hope they will show common sense and take a risk based approach.”
The checks triggered anger and a perception among pro-British unionists in Northern Ireland that the Brexit deal divides them from the rest of the United Kingdom, a shift they say could sink the 1998 peace deal that brought an end to three decades of violence there.
Mr Johnson, who had promised there would be unfettered trade between Northern Ireland and the rest of the United Kingdom, unilaterally extended a grace period on certain checks to minimise supply disruption, a move Brussels said breached the Brexit divorce deal.
David Frost, the minister in charge of ties with the EU, said he wanted the bloc to meet its obligations under the Brexit deal to try to minimise barriers in trade between Britain and the province, but had yet to have the conversation.
He also said there should be progress before July 12, when Northern Irish loyalists gather to mark the 1690 victory at the Battle of the Boyne by Protestant King William of Orange over Catholic King James of England and Scotland.
He told a parliamentary committee: “I would like to feel that we will be making progress with the EU in good time before that date.”
Earlier, the BBC said Britain was asking the EU to introduce checks slowly. From October, checks on fresh meat products could begin, extending to dairy products, plants and wine from the end of Jan. 2022, the BBC reported.
Irish Prime Minister Micheal Martin said separately he wanted the deal to work, adding he did not get an immediate sense from his meeting with Johnson that London wanted to rewrite the trading arrangements, as reported this week in the Irish media.
Mr Martin told an online event when asked about the Irish national broadcaster RTE report: “We were very clear and are very clear that this is an international agreement, commitments have been made and it needs to be worked, and the processes that are in it need to be worked also.”
Preserving the delicate peace without allowing the United Kingdom a back door into the EU’s single market via the Irish border was one of the most difficult issues of nearly four years of tortuous talks on the terms of Britain’s exit from the bloc.
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Some fear the dispute over the Northern Ireland protocol, designed to prevent a “hard” border, could spill over into violent protest in the province in the coming months.
Britain’s retail industry lobby group on Monday called for urgent talks between the major supermarket groups it represents and European Union and British officials to discuss proposed new post-Brexit Irish Sea border checks for food products.
In Northern Ireland, Finance Minister Conor Murphy has said it is time to go “beyond the noise” around the Northern Ireland Protocol and for the area to take advantage of the unique situation of having access to two markets.
Mr Murphy also told the Assembly that there were “significant opportunities” arising from the protocol and called for issues around it to be resolved.
The protocol has angered unionists by effectively creating a barrier between Great Britain and Northern Ireland by leaving the region tied to a range of EU customs and regulatory rules.
Mr Murphy was answering a question from SDLP MLA Matthew O’Toole at the Assembly on Monday around the loss of EU funding caused by Brexit.
Mr O’Toole said: “Does the minister share with me an amusement of the irony of members of parties who backed Brexit standing up and decrying the loss of EU funding that communities and local Government in this place are facing as a result of Brexit?
“But can I ask the minister, does he agree with me that one of the few opportunities there are from this is the Northern Ireland Protocol, which gives us access to two markets, including the European Single Market of half a billion people?”
The Sinn Fein Finance Minister responded: “Well I don’t recall it being written on the side of the bus when it was starting on the Brexit tour that we were going to end up as net losers as a consequence of this exercise, even though many of us warned about a detrimental outcome in relation to it.
“I do, however, think there are significant opportunities.
“There are expressions of interest from different parts of the world as to our unique position in relation to both the British markets and the European markets and I think it is time to get beyond the noise in relation to Brexit and the protocol and actually resolve any issues that arise from it.
“There are supply chain issues across the world that are nothing to do with Brexit which are impacting here as well.”
The minister added: “We need to resolve those issues in the best interests of our businesses here and to get on with the opportunities which are presented in relation to the situation with the protocol and our unique position in both markets.”
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