The president of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, has warned British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Thursday that the European Union will not accept to reopen the negotiation of the protocol for Northern Ireland agreed in the framework of Brexit, as London intends.
Both have spoken by phone this Thursday in a conversation requested by the ‘premier’ to explain to the community bloc the details of the latest British proposal, a document presented on Wednesday in which London demands “substantive changes” in the protocol and threatens to suspend it completely if the EU does not accept modifications.
Johnson, for his part, has defended against Von der Leyen that the current conditions of the protocol are “unsustainable”Therefore, he believes that “it is not possible to find solutions within the existing mechanism,” according to sources from the British Government.
The head of the Community Executive has “listened” to Johnson and then has transferred him “in very clear terms” that the EU will continue to offer “flexibility and creativity” to find “creative” solutions, but always “within the framework of the protocol”, said a spokeswoman for Von der Layen, Dana Spinant. “The EU will continue to be creative and flexible within the protocol. But we will not renegotiate,” said Von der Leyen herself, through a message posted on Twitter after her conversation with Johnson.
The president of the Commission added that both parties must “jointly ensure stability and predictability“in Northern Ireland.
The protocol for Northern Ireland is part of the divorce pact negotiated between the European Union and the United Kingdom, whose agreement reached in extremis at the end of 2020 and was ratified by the British and European parliaments. The objective of the protocol is avoid going back to a “hard” border in Ulster because it worries that the opposite will damage the peace achieved with the Good Friday Accords.
For this reason, this safeguard provides for customs controls in the Irish Sea on goods that transit from Great Britain to the British province, and thus prevent their subsequent passage to the Republic of Ireland from damaging the functioning of the Single Market.
The United Kingdom complains of the economic frictions linked to the application of the protocol and it suspended its start-up, which is why Brussels has initiated a sanctioning file against London while it tries to agree on an alternative solution.
In this context, the British Government’s Minister for Brexit, David Frost, announced on Wednesday that he believes that the conditions are in place to totally suspend the protocol but that he was willing to negotiate substantial changes with the EU beforehand to avoid this extreme.
The vice president of the European Commission in charge of supervising Brexit and direct interlocutor of Frost, Maros Sefcovic, already expressed on Wednesday in a statement that the EU flatly rejects the renegotiation although it is open to discussing solutions within the agreed. In addition, he stressed the urgency of complying with all the provisions of this safeguard to protect the peace in Ulster and the stability of the Internal Market, while advised London that it is imperative that it comply with its legal obligations within the framework of international law in which this agreement is framed.
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.