Northern Ireland’s protocol to the Brexit deal will not be ruled out, the Irish government and the EU have said in a growing dispute over new trade barriers in the Irish Sea.
The leader of the Democratic Unionist Party, Arlene Foster, has called for the measure designed to keep the Irish land border open to be replaced, but Dublin is focused on easing problems with the post-Brexit trade deal that have caused disruption in Irish ports.
Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney told BBC Ulster that “there is not going to be a very dramatic change”, amid calls from the DUP for the protocol to be urgently removed.
“We want the protocol to work in a way that works for everyone, north and south, on the island of Ireland,” he said.
Foster responded to the same program, accusing Coveney of being “completely deaf to the concerns of unionism.”
On Wednesday, European Commission Vice President Maroš Šefčovič said the UK and the EU had a “shared commitment to the proper implementation of the protocol.”
I KNOW tweeted that this had been reiterated in a meeting with Michael Gove, Foster and Northern Ireland’s Deputy Prime Minister Michelle O’Neill on Wednesday night and they had agreed that ‘constructive solution-driven cooperation’ was’ essential to addressing the pending issues ”.
Gove and Šefčovič will meet again next week. It is understood that a dedicated committee dedicated to developing the protocol will be set up in the coming days to drive those talks, with a meeting of the joint UK-EU committee chaired by Gove and Šefčovič in mid-March.
The effort to address the problems caused by the implementation of the protocol has been accelerated by the failed attempt of the EU to activate article 16 of the protocol, which allows the suspension of agreements in extreme circumstances.
Boris Johnson and Gove have seized on the EU’s embarrassment over the measure and threatened to activate Article 16 themselves in parliament and in a letter to Šefčovič on Tuesday.
The UK is now demanding a two-year extension of the Brexit grace period for trade controls, but the EU made clear last night that it saw Article 16 as a final measure on which it would not capitulate.
Efforts to reduce tension will do little to mitigate the DUP’s opposition to the protocol.
Two days ago, Foster, who is also the Prime Minister of Northern Ireland, launched an official campaign to remove the arrangements. At the same time, he announced that the party would withdraw from all engagements with the Irish government on matters related to the protocol.
While the move has been viewed by many as a reflection of the binary politics that often defines Northern Ireland, consumers and businesses agree that the protocol has caused unrest across communities.
A buyer who contacted The Guardian on Wednesday said he had been unable to order products, as he used to, from John Lewis or Currys.
“It seems that we are falling behind, victims of a Brexit for which we did not vote in Northern Ireland. I’m not angry about any of this, I’m just worried that things will get harder and more expensive at a time when many people are already struggling, ”he said.
“I know that the DUP (the people who voted for Brexit) are now upset with the result and want to do something to alleviate these terrible supply problems, but it all seems a bit late.”
Belfast South MLA Matthew O’Toole of the Social Democratic Labor Party criticized the DUP’s approach.
“They are trying to broaden the Irish Sea border issue in a disembodied way, as if the Irish border exists in a sui generis way and can be removed without diplomatic, political or economic consequences,” he said.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism