Northern Ireland protocol ‘not the problem’ says EU ambassador
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This weekend, UK Cabinet ministers hardened their rhetoric in a bid to push Brussels into further concessions by warning of possible disruption to peace in the region. In a joint article in the Irish Times on Saturday, Brexit minister Lord Frost and Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis said the extension of the grace period on chilled meats was “welcome” but added it “addresses only a small part of the underlying problem”.
They warned the deal risks “damage” to the Good Friday Agreement, which in 1998 helped to secure peace after decades of sectarian violence in Northern Ireland, unless a “new balance” is found in terms of customs checks.
Alongside this, Lord Frost also accused the European Union of “lurching from crisis to crisis” on the Protocol yesterday.
But in the latest chapter of the Protocol row, Simon Coveney said the comments were a “very strange way to make friends and build a partnership” in a week when the EU had offered concessions.
He told RTE’s This Week: “This is a week when the EU has moved, has shown generosity, has responded to requests from the British Government and from leaders in Northern Ireland.
“And at the same time, the British Government shows no generosity at all, in terms of even acknowledging that there were advances this week that could build trust and relationships.”
Following a request from the UK Government, the EU extended the grace period on chilled meats entering Northern Ireland from the UK on Wednesday, averting the so-called “sausage war” trade dispute, at least temporarily.
The EU also changed its rules to allow medicines to continue to flow from the UK into Northern Ireland and waived the obligation to show the motor insurance green card for drivers from the UK.
Mr Coveney concluded: “Many in the EU are interpreting the UK’s response as essentially saying: ‘Look, concessions don’t matter. What is required now is to dismantle elements of the protocol piece by piece.’”
“That is going to cause huge problems.”
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8am update: Protocol has damaged Ulster and UK-Ireland relations
Northern Ireland’s relationships with Great Britain and the Republic have been damaged by the Brexit protocol, DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson has said.
In his first interview as leader, Sir Jeffrey called on Prime Minister Boris Johnson to recognise the protocol has harmed Northern Ireland’s constitutional position in the United Kingdom.
He said there will be “opportunities going forward” from the protocol, which grants Northern Ireland access to UK and EU markets, but they cannot be accessed yet because of “unnecessary barriers” created by the Irish Sea border.
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