Former Brexit Party MEP slams EU over Northern Ireland border
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Last week, European Commission vice president Maros Sefcovic proposed a set of “far-reaching” measures aimed at resolving post-Brexit trade issues in Northern Ireland. These included slashing 80 percent of regulatory checks and cutting customs processes on the movement of goods between Britain and the island of Ireland. But the European Union proposals have still fallen a long way short of what the UK is currently demanding, with Brexit minister Lord Frost seeking a complete overhaul of large parts of the Northern Ireland Protocol.
Under the mechanism, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) would act as the final arbitrator in any future trade dispute between the two sides.
Lord Frost wants this key provision removed and replaced with an independent arbitration process – but the EU is not caving to this demand – paving the way for several weeks of intense talks between the two sides.
The UK has threatened to tear up the Protocol by triggering Article 16, while the EU has warned it will retaliate and implied it could start a bitter trade war with Brexit Britain.
But one diplomat from a “sizeable EU member state” has sent a huge warning to the UK, with the EU’s so-called Maximum Facilitation (Max Fac) proposals to reduce GB-NI checks are dependent on the UK not diverging too much from the EU’s regulatory approach.
The diplomat told Irish broadcaster RTE: “Divergence is going to be a problem anyway.
“The UK opted to keep Northern Ireland inside the EU internal market for the purposes of keeping the border off the island of Ireland.
“That put the border between GB and NI. That was their solution. Theresa May’s solution was different.
The official added: “Now, if the UK is going to diverge then Max Fac is going to fall away. It won’t be sufficient if they start diverging.
“Frost says that can’t be solved by the ECJ. Well, the ECJ is the final arbiter. That’s what it is.
“At a certain point not too far away, there won’t be any commercial unionism to save, because companies will all have made their practical commercial arrangements to deliver within the protocol.
“Most have already done so.”
Lord Frost is currently in Brussels for talks with the European Commission vice president Mr Sefcovic as the two sides desperately try to end the dispute over post-Brexit trade in Northern Ireland.
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The EU said a “very intense period of discussions” is now underway but implied they may not include the role of the ECJ.
On Monday, European Commission Arianna Podesta insisted the measures detailed by Mr Sefcovic last Wednesday are extensive and that talks would not go much further than it.
When asked whether talks will include the ECJ this week, she replied: “We are following up on the package that we have proposed on October 13 – it is a far-reaching package.”
A statement from the European Commission said Mr Sefcovic has welcomed that “both sides have agreed to engage intensively and constructively at both expert and political level”.
It added: “The EU seeks to focus on the areas that matter most to Northern Irish people and businesses, and where we can find common ground.
“Swift joint solutions would bring the stability, certainty and predictability that Northern Ireland deserves, ultimately protecting the Good Friday (Belfast) Agreement in all its dimensions.”
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