Boris Johnson on removing 'unnecessary' barriers for NI trade
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It comes after the Prime Minister branded a number of the EU-ordered checks “absurd” and threatened to rip up the divorce deal if it continues to cause disruption on Northern Ireland. Responding to the earlier remarks, European Commission vice-president Maros Sefcovic insisted Downing Street was responsible for the hit to trade between mainland Britain and the region. The Slovak diplomat said blockades on shipments of British sausages and soil to the area could have been avoided if Mr Johnson had opted to closely align with Brussels’ health and safety regulations.
Mr Sefcovic told a news conference: “Here we are dealing with the consequences of Brexit.
“Of course, what we want to make sure is that we minimise the disruption for the people of Northern Ireland but it has to be a two-way street.
“We are ready to do our part but I’m sure that the UK can do more, and this is what we would like to discuss with our British counterparts.”
The top eurocrat said “a lot of these controls” on GB-NI trade could be removed if Downing Street agreed to follow the EU’s “well regarded” animal and food safety rules.
Brexit minister Lord Frost has repeatedly ruled out any move that would see Britain permanently tied to the bloc’s regulations.
Brussels is pushing for Britain to fully implement the 2019 Brexit divorce deal’s protocol to prevent a hard border after No10 moved to temporarily scrap a number of the EU-ordered customs controls.
Britain has called for red tape to be eased after a worrying rise in tensions over a disruption in trade.
But Eurocrats insist trade rules drawn up to deal with Brexit cannot be altered.
To keep the Irish border open, Northern Ireland effectively remains part of the EU’s single market and some checks are now made on some products arriving from the rest of the UK.
Prime Minister Mr Johnson renewed his threat to rip up the pact if it continues to disrupt the lives of ordinary people in the area.
In an interview, he some elements of the agreement are “absurd” and need to be “sandpapered into shape”.
“If we can’t make enough progress and if it looks as though the EU is going to be very, very dogmatic about it and we continue to have absurd situations so you can’t bring in rose bushes with British soil into Northern Ireland, you can’t bring British sausages into Northern Ireland, then frankly I’m going to, we’ll have to take further steps,” the PM told the BBC.
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“What we’re doing is removing what I think of as the unnecessary protuberances and barriers that have grown up and we’re getting the barnacles off the thing and sandpapering it into shape.”
Lord Frost last week held urgent negotiations with his EU counterpart Mr Sefcovic on the ongoing row over the Northern Ireland Protocol.
The pair agreed to move forward with a joint “work plan” as met for crunch talks over dinner in Brussels.
They both vowed to find a political solution to the row over the Northern Ireland Protocol to avoid repeat flare-ups of the event spate of violent disruption in Belfast.
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No10 said “some positive momentum had been established” during recent technical talks over the issue, but “a number of difficult issues remained and it was important to continue to discuss them”.
The EU agreed there had been “productive discussions” and “good technical co-operation on the ground”.
The protocol has been blamed by some for the tension on the ground in Northern Ireland because Unionists feel that it has driven a wedge between them and the rest of the United Kingdom.
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