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UK, EU argument over Northern Ireland continues

LONDON 

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson urged the EU for “pragmatism and compromise” over the ongoing problems with the Northern Ireland protocol.

Meeting the EU leaders, Ursula Von der Leyen and Charles Michelle, as well as French president and German chancellor, on the sidelines of ongoing G7 summit in Cornwall, England, Johnson said he was looking for “urgent and innovative solutions” to the problems of the protocol.

“The prime minister made it clear that the UK is committed to finding practical solutions within the framework of the Protocol which protect the aims of the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement and minimise the impact on the day to day lives of people in Northern Ireland,” a statement said over his meeting with European Commission President Von der Leyen and European Council head Charles Michel.

“They agreed on the need for continued meaningful engagement to resolve the outstanding issues.”

Johnson “expressed confidence in the UK’s position in the Northern Ireland Protocol,” in his meeting with Macron, according to a government spokesman.

“He made clear his desire for pragmatism and compromise on all sides but underlined that protecting the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement in all its dimensions was paramount.”

However, a statement from the Elysee Palace said Macron warned Johnson and told him that the British government must “honour their word” over the Brexit deal.

Macron “strongly emphasised that this re-engagement required the British to honour their word to the Europeans and the framework defined by the Brexit agreements,” according to the French statement.

Johnson in his meeting with Merkel “underlined the UK’s position on the Northern Ireland protocol and the need to maintain both the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the UK.”

– Latest spat

The latest war of words between Britain and the EU started last week over ongoing uncertainties over the Brexit regulations related to Northern Ireland.

The latest spat came after David Frost, UK’s Brexit minister, invited the EU officials to show “common sense” and compromise on checks over goods transported to Northern Ireland from the rest of the UK – a requisite according to the Northern Ireland Protocol signed last December by both parties.

European Commission Vice President Sefcovic threatened to retaliate with a ban on selling some products in Northern Ireland.


The Northern Ireland Protocol necessitates border checks on any animal and plant-based products, including frozen meet and processed meat products before their transport to Northern Ireland, which is aligned with the EU rules and regulations.

The protocol creates a de facto trade border in the Irish Sea between Northern Ireland and rest of the UK.

The UK is considering the extension of the grace period, which allowed many of the products into Northern Ireland with relaxed checks, beyond June 30, when it will end.

The EU, however, says a unilateral extension would be a breach to the internationally signed Brexit agreement.

The UK left the bloc on Jan. 31, 2020 as a result of a 2016 referendum that ended the country’s more than 40-year-long membership to the European club.

The agreement signed by the sides included the Northern Ireland Protocol, which practically avoided a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.

Northern Ireland saw sporadic street protests by loyalist groups who reject the protocol and any checks on goods coming from the other parts of the UK earlier this year. Dozens of police officers were injured, a public bus and cars were burnt down during the rallies.

Around 3,000 loyalists staged an anti-protocol protest Thursday night in Belfast, amid the diplomatic spat between the UK and the EU officials.



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