The EU has sharply withdrawn against the request Northern Ireland The Brexit protocol is being repealed, warning that renegotiation would only lead to greater instability for traders and communities.
Just hours after the Democratic Unionist Party threatened to collapse the Stormont Assembly if the protocol has not changed significantly within a few weeks, the EU has also called on politicians to “soften the rhetoric” and give both sides a calm space to work to ease tensions.
Speaking to an audience at Queen’s University in Belfast, European Commission Vice President Maroš Šefčovič said he was “acutely” aware of the union unrest over the protocol, but that there was no alternative, given that Boris Johnson’s government had opted for a difficult Brexit.
“We will continue to look for solutions to reduce the consequences Brexit in your daily lives, we will never be able to completely eliminate them – such are the consequences of Brexit and the election of the British government, ”he said. “I will not diminish the words. Protocol is not a problem. On the contrary, it is the only solution we have. If you don’t apply it, the problems won’t go away, but simply take away the tools to solve them.
“Re-negotiating the protocol – as the British government suggests – would mean instability, uncertainty and unpredictability in Northern Ireland. Keep in mind that it took us five years to get to this point. ”
He was speaking just days after Brexit Minister David Frost said the UK wanted to keep the protocol, but only if there were significant changes to the controversial checks on goods traded across the Irish Sea.
Šefčovič and Frost are the main interlocutors in the continuation of the dispute over the protocol, agreed at the meeting with the then Irish Prime Minister, Leo Varadkar, at the hotel in Wiral 2019.
But the protocol has caused deep unease in union and loyalist communities who think checks on goods coming from the UK are an attack on Northern Ireland’s place in the UK.
Šefčovič told reporters that he “met a few weeks ago” with DUP leader Jeffrey Donaldson, and that he described him as “a very experienced politician”. But he said he shares Donaldson’s desire to achieve what is best for Northern Ireland. “I can convince him that that’s my intention, too,” he said.
“Of course, I’m very aware of what some in Northern Ireland think about protocol, especially in the union community,” he told the audience at Queen’s.
“I know we can work together if the rhetoric on both sides is reduced.”
He said he wanted the people of Northern Ireland to be fully involved in discussions on the implementation of the protocol and warned that political side battles were a distraction.
“I believe that our focus should be on those issues that are most important to the citizens of Northern Ireland, and not on demands, such as removing the role of the European Court of Justice.”