Arlene Foster says Sefcovic ‘had his head in the sand’
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The 38-page report, published by the European Research Group (ERG) makes the case strongly while pushing for a system of mutual enforcement, whereby both the UK and the EU commit to enforcing each other’s rules when it comes to exports. And David Jones MP, the ERG’s deputy chairman, said it was imperative to the Government to be “firm” with Brussels, stressing his belief that the current arrangements were unfair on the people of the north.
Meanwhile, top City financial lawyer Barnabas Reynolds, who contributed to the report, said the changes were needed to reverse what he described as a “land-grab” by Brussels.
The document, entitled Re-uniting the Kingdom: How and why to replace the Northern Ireland Protocol, concludes that the NIP, signed off by Prime Minister Boris Johnson in 2019 ”has had a profound and negative effect”.
It recommends: “The UK can and should act in the interests of Northern Ireland. In order to act UK law must be changed to give the Government the power to disapply the NIP and implement an alternative.”
Mr Jones, Tory MP for Clwyd West, told Express.co.uk the Government should be prepared to “take the gloves off” – but “only if they won’t agree to mutual enforcement.
“That should suit both sides.”
He added: “We need to be firm. We can’t allow part of our country to be disadvantaged like this.”
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Mr Reynolds, a partner at Sterling & Shearman, told Express.co.uk, said: “The protocol was a sort of land grab by the EU which a large number of people in Northern Ireland find unacceptable and it was forced through (by the EU) over their heads.
“The EU needs to accept that this solution is flawed and needs to be replaced.
“The problem to solve for is an invisible north-south border on the island of Ireland.
“The protocol does that by trampling on UK sovereignty and also the rights of people in Northern Ireland.
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“It is incompatible with basic human rights and entitlements – it is conceptually flawed. People in Northern Ireland will be subject to laws they have had no vote on.”
He added: “There are two ways of solving the problem in a sovereignty-compliant manner.
“One is alternative arrangements, which the EU shot down, and the other is mutual enforcement which is basically a guarantee, which they can’t shoot down because it is conceptually impregnable.
“Mutual enforcement works by flipping the problem on its head and having us ensure that EU laws are complied with by exporters. The EU would do the same for the UK.”
The report concludes that the Government should:
- Notify the EU under Article 16 that it intends to redress the trade diversion and societal pressures by legislating.
- Work on a draft Bill to ensure free trade within the UK, restoring the UK’s internal market as set out in 1801, emphasising that Parliament has the sovereign power as reaffirmed in section 38 of the European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Act 2020.
- Extend a “generous offer” to help the EU meet its stated concerns.
Asked about the ERG’s intervention, Allegra Stratton, Mr Johnson’s press secretary, said there were “outstanding problems with the Protocol” but that “discussions are ongoing”.
Speaking yesterday, Ms Foster, who is also Northern Ireland’s First Minister, was dubious about the point of ongoing talks between EU Vice President Maros Sefcovic and Michael Gove, Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster.
She said: “It is clear Maros Sefcovic and his team is not serious,” insisting it was “time for the United Kingdom government to act unilaterally”.
She added: “With a stubborn and inflexible response from Brussels it is now a matter for the Government to step up and protect the United Kingdom internal market.”
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