Northern Ireland: British government calls on EU for “flexibility”


London and Brussels will try Wednesday to overcome their disagreements over post-Brexit trade arrangements.

The UK and the European Union seek Wednesday June 9 to resolve their disagreements over post-Brexit trade arrangements in Northern Ireland, with London calling for the “flexibility” on these measures at the origin of strong tensions in the British province. Two days before the G7 summit under the British presidency, the Northern Irish protocol, bitterly negotiated within the framework of Brexit, poisons relations between the two parties and turns to what the British press is already calling “The sausage war”.

Brexit: Northern Ireland plunges into uncertainty

A meeting in London with the minister responsible for European relations, David Frost, and the vice-president of the European Commission Maros Sefcovic is intended to find solutions to the problems affecting trade with the British province, due in particular to red tape. “My message will be clear: time is running out and practical solutions are needed now for the Protocol to work”, said David Frost. “Our common priority must be to protect the Good Friday agreement and the peace process. I count on the EU to show flexibility and discuss our proposals so that we can find solutions that enjoy the confidence of all communities ”, he added in a statement.

Effective January 1, the Northern Irish Protocol maintains the British province of Northern Ireland in the single European market and customs union for goods, by providing for customs controls on goods arriving in Northern Ireland from the Great -Brittany. It is a question of avoiding the return of a physical border between the British province and the Republic of Ireland, member of the EU, in order to preserve the peace concluded in 1998 with the agreement of Good Friday, after three decades bloody between unionists favorable to the maintenance under the British crown and republicans favorable to the reunification of the island. But the protocol provokes the discontent of the Unionists, who denounce the de facto introduction of a border in the Irish Sea, within the United Kingdom. After several evenings of violence in early April, fears of new clashes this summer are increasing, when Orange marches commemorate the Protestant domination of the province in July.

“The sausage war”

According to the newspaper The Telegraph, London is considering an extension of the grace period for chilled meat, supposed to end on June 30: meat imports are normally prohibited from a country outside the EU. Left unchecked, British chicken sausages and nuggets risk disappearing from Northern Irish supermarkets, a sign of the absurdity of the measures according to Boris Johnson’s government.

For Brussels, London must keep its word after having signed the protocol knowingly. “If the UK takes further unilateral steps in the coming weeks, the EU will be sure to respond swiftly, firmly and decisively to ensure the UK meets its international legal obligations”, warned Maros Sefcovic, in the daily Tuesday. “The EU has shown from the very beginning that we are ready to find creative solutions when necessary”, underlined Maros Sefcovic. “But we can’t do it alone”.

Faced with the discontent of the Unionists, the British government had already unilaterally postponed the adaptation period for certain controls, in particular for the food industry. This decision prompted the European Commission to initiate infringement proceedings against the United Kingdom. “There is absolutely no reason to prevent chilled meat from being sold in Northern Ireland and any ban would be contrary to the objectives of the protocol and the interests of the people of Northern Ireland”British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s spokesman said on Tuesday. He stressed that London wanted to find a solution “Urgent” and “Consensual”.

Tensions around Northern Ireland should be on the menu of discussions between US President Joe Biden and Boris Johnson who meet Thursday before the G7 heads of state and government summit under British presidency in Cornwall (southwest of England). Joe Biden warned that a lack of a solution could jeopardize the chances of success of the free trade agreement between the two countries, which Boris Johnson is eagerly seeking after Brexit.

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