Brexit: Clement Beaune says UK and EU can’t ‘play games’
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This comes after the UK threatened to unilaterally remove parts of the Northern Ireland Protocol. Mr Beaune hit out at the “totally false idea” that the EU “has not proposed anything” with regards to the protocol, saying the situation is “exactly the opposite”. This came after UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson earlier this week renewed his threat to axe the legislation.
Meanwhile, Foreign Secretary Liz Truss is reportedly preparing draft legislation that would unilaterally scrap key parts of the Northern Ireland Protocol.
Speaking on Monday, Mr Johnson said the UK would have a “necessity to act” if the EU is unwilling to reach a compromise with the UK over the Northern Ireland Protocol.
While he said the UK Government remained “open to genuine dialogue”, he insisted a compromise would require a significant change of negotiating position from the EU.
Mr Beaune has been dubbed Mr Macron’s “attack dog” for Brexit related issues, as a result of his strong anti-Brexit stance.
The former European adviser to the French President previously described the UK’s choice to leave the EU as “intellectual fraud”.
Hitting back at Mr Johnson’s threat earlier today, Mr Beaune, now France’s Secretary of State for European Affairs, said: “We must not give in to this totally false idea that the protocol is the problem and that the EU has not proposed anything: it is exactly the opposite.”
Speaking to Politico’s Playbook, he added: “The British government knows this perfectly well.”
The protocol, which was agreed upon as a temporary part of the withdrawal agreement to avoid a hard border in Ireland after the UK left the EU, allowed Northern Ireland to remain within the EU’s single market for goods.
But its continuation was always subject to a referendum in Northern Ireland after five years.
It has faced criticism because a border was effectively created between Great Britain and Northern Ireland in the Irish Sea.
This led to delays, supermarket shortages and increased costs for businesses in Northern Ireland.
The UK has been locked in talks with the EU over the Northern Ireland Protocol since October 2021.
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While the European Commission has claimed it is “bending over backwards” to fix the problems with the protocol it has refused to countenance any compromise and no agreement on the issue has been reached.
Ms Truss’ legislation would remove the need for checks on goods between Great Britain and Northern Ireland.
It would also remove the European Court of Justice’s powers and remove any requirement for Northern Irish businesses to comply with EU regulations.
A Government source confirmed to the Guardian that the Foreign Secretary plans to move unilaterally.
However, they denied the UK has given up on negotiating.
Sources in the EU have threatened a trade war if the UK scraps the Protocol unilaterally.
Recently, Lord Frost warned that the Good Friday peace deal was being threatened by the continuation of the Protocol, calling for it to be “renegotiated or removed”.
Speaking a week before elections to the Northern Ireland Assembly on May 5, the former chief Brexit negotiator said: “The strains [the protocol] is causing are actively damaging the Belfast Agreement.
“It is therefore surely obvious, indeed it is an inescapable logical conclusion, that the protocol can’t be operated as it stands.
“It has to be renegotiated or removed.”
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