Ministers warn EU protocol ‘will undermine’ peace in Northern Ireland without change
Cabinet ministers stepped up rhetoric in a bid to push Brussels to make concessions on the Northern Ireland protocol by warning of a possible disruption of peace in the region without change.
In a joint Irish Times article, Brexit Minister Lord Frost and Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis said this week’s extension of a grace period in the so-called Sausage War was ” welcome, “but that the extension” only addresses a small part of the underlying problem “.
The couple warned the European Union that the protocol – negotiated as part of the Brexit divorce deal – risked ‘damaging’ the Good Friday deal, which in 1998 helped secure peace after decades sectarian violence in Northern Ireland, unless a “new balance” is found in terms of customs controls.
It comes after German Chancellor Angela Merkel, after speaking with Prime Minister Boris Johnson at Checkers on Friday, expressed optimism that “pragmatic solutions” can be found on the protocol.
Following a request from the UK, the EU agreed on Wednesday to continue to allow the shipment of chilled meats to Northern Ireland from Britain for another three months.
The deal avoids a trade dispute by delaying the ban until September 30 as efforts continue to find a lasting solution.
With a reprieve in place, Lord Frost and Mr Lewis urged Brussels to take a softer approach to implementing the protocol – a treaty conservative peers helped negotiate – or risk further economic disruption and perhaps- even be disrupting the peace in Northern Ireland.
The potential ban on chilled meats from Britain is one of the results of the controversial Brexit protocol, which created a series of economic barriers to trade in the Irish Sea.
The protocol aims to avoid a hard border with Ireland by effectively keeping Northern Ireland in the EU’s single market for goods.
But trade unionists – who have demonstrated against the UK-EU treaty in recent months – have complained that the terms separate Northern Ireland from Britain and hit the pockets of companies as suppliers renounce exporting through Irish Sea or facing additional controls and costs. do this.
Writing in The Irish Times, ministers said: “Opposition is growing, including among many who are not normally active in politics. It is not a stable basis for the future.
“The current process to resolve all of these difficulties is not working and risks creating a series of slippery crises as we waver from one deadline to the next.
“Wednesday’s deal to extend the right to circulate British sausages and chilled meats in Northern Ireland for three months is welcome, but only fixes a small part of the underlying problem.
“In short, a seriously imbalanced situation is developing in the operation of the Protocol – this risks harming the economy of Northern Ireland and, in turn, upsetting the essential balance within the Agreement. Belfast itself. “
Conservative MPs called for a ‘swift’ establishment of a ‘new balance in the functioning of the protocol’ and questioned how the EU’s insistence on stricter application of the protocol would help matters.
“If operating the Protocol on the current basis makes the situation worse, then how does pushing for an even more rigorous assertion of it make sense? ” they asked.
The couple said the UK should “consider all of our options” if no solution is found, as ministers have “a primary responsibility and obligation to support peace” in Northern Ireland, in what is likely to be. interpreted as an additional threat to act unilaterally. to suspend inconvenient elements of the Protocol.
The Prime Minister, at a joint press conference with German leader Merkel, said he hoped the “wurst is behind us” when it comes to the chilled meat saga.