Timmermans: ‘Not possible’ to end role of EU judges in Northern Ireland Protocol

·3-min read

European Union judges must have a role overseeing Northern Ireland’s Brexit arrangements but Brussels has been “bending over backwards” to find a solution to the dispute with the UK, a senior EU official has said.

European Commission executive vice-president Frans Timmermans said it was impossible to exclude the European Court of Justice from a role as “ultimate arbitrator” in disputes around the single market.

But he insisted Brussels had taken steps to find a compromise in the row with the UK and hoped that Boris Johnson would stop short of effectively tearing up parts of Northern Ireland’s Brexit arrangements.

Talks are continuing between the UK and EU over the Northern Ireland Protocol, the part of the Brexit divorce deal which avoided a hard border with Ireland.

The deal effectively keeps Northern Ireland inside the EU’s single market for goods, resulting in some checks for products crossing the Irish Sea from Great Britain, which left the single market.

Brexit Minister Lord Frost has claimed the conditions for using Article 16 – allowing parts of the deal to be suspended – have been met because of the difficulties being caused.

The UK has proposed sweeping changes to the deal, including ending the role of the European Court of Justice in policing the agreement.

But Mr Timmermans told ITV’s Peston: “I think Mr Frost knows very well that this is not possible for the European Union.

“I know he knows full well that whenever the internal market is involved, the ultimate arbitrator is the European Court of Justice.

“This is, I think, extremely well-known in London and instead of talking about red lines, I think it would be more productive to talk about the ideas the European Union came up with.”

Asked about the risks of the UK triggering Article 16, Mr Timmermans said: “Let’s hope this doesn’t happen, let’s hope we can find a way out”.

He added: “The European Commission has shown clear willingness to find a compromise.

“I think we’ve been bending over backwards to offer a solution to the practicalities that people encountered in Northern Ireland.

“Let’s focus on the people and the businesses in Northern Ireland instead of trying to score points off each other on certain issues. Let’s try and solve this. I think a solution is within reach.”

Lord Frost will be in Paris on Thursday for talks with France’s Europe minister Clement Beaune.

While they are expected to discuss the row over post-Brexit fishing rights that has soured relations between the UK and France, Lord Frost is also expected to discuss the protocol.

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