Protocol challenges a ‘two way street’

Michael McHugh, PA
·3-min read

Efforts to address problems with the Northern Ireland Protocol should be a two-way street, the European Commission vice-president said.

Maros Sefcovic said the EU is “always ready to deliver” on its commitments surrounding the post-Brexit arrangements to avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland.

DUP East Londonderry MP Gregory Campbell reiterated the need for the Government to take direct and meaningful action to “restore” Northern Ireland’s place in the UK internal market following disruption of supplies.

Brexit
Mr Sefcovic told Euronews the EU is ‘always ready to deliver’ on its commitments but the UK must realise the effort is a ‘two-way street’ (Liam McBurney/PA)

Mr Sefcovic told Euronews the EU is “always ready to deliver” on its commitments but the UK must realise the effort is a “two-way street”.

“I believe if the UK used all the flexibilities which we already agreed upon in December, then also the implementation of the protocol would be much easier.”

A series of loyalist signs have been posted near the sea port of Larne in Co Antrim criticising the protocol in trenchant terms.

On attempts to renegotiate the accord with the UK, Mr Sefcovic said: “I think we have to be all very cautious about breaching international law, an agreement we just signed.”

He added: “We can be 100% sure that the protocol is the solution, not the problem.

“The protocol is the only way we can avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland.

“I believe if the UK used all the flexibilities which we already agreed upon in December, then also the implementation of the protocol would be much easier.”

The European Commission vice-president says he has not discussed UK proposals that would restore the border on the island of Ireland.

A report in the Sunday Telegraph said Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove is now considering an alternate “mutual enforcement” plan.

Mr Sefcovic has said his discussions with Mr Gove had focused on the implementation of the protocol.

Mr Sefcovic apologised for the EU’s recent attempt to trigger Article 16 of the protocol to prevent the flow of vaccines into Northern Ireland.

The move has led to Unionist calls for Westminster to now invoke the clause which would create a border on the island of Ireland.

Mr Campbell said: “The Prime Minister speaks about wanting to keep the protocol to respect the Belfast Agreement but I suspect this is more out of convenience than conviction.

“In reality the protocol has already blown a huge hole in this provision by disrupting the east-west relationship bypassing the requirement for cross community consent prior to implementation.”

He added not a single voice from any shade of unionism in Northern Ireland supported the protocol.

“The Government must quickly realise that far from garnering support for these flawed arrangements, doing nothing further tilts the delicate balance of relationships within Northern Ireland.

“Consent was a cornerstone of agreements, for this, there is none.”