Arlene Foster calls for change from ‘damaging’ NI protocol
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It comes as Lord Frost held meetings with loyal paramilitary groups following a series of tense protests over the Brexit trade regulations. The Protocol was incorporated into the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement to help avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland.
But it has left Northern Ireland tied to a range of EU customs and regulatory rules with critics claiming that it is effectively creating a barrier with Great Britain due to checks being made on goods coming from mainland UK.
The Cabinet Office Minister and Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis met a delegation from the Loyalist Communities Council (LCC) to discuss Brexit concerns.
Downing Street said it was important to “engage widely” with communities in Northern Ireland.
In a statement this evening, the Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “The UK Government regularly meets with groups and individuals from across all parts of the community and it is important we hear a diverse range of views.
“We are going to continue to engage widely to ensure that the UK Government is able to meet its objectives in Northern Ireland.”
An LCC spokesman also said they were seeking a meeting with European Commission vice-president Maros Sefcovic “to ensure that he understands how the Belfast Agreement has been breached by the Protocol”.
Lord Frost urged the European Union to take a “common sense, risk-based approach” to the Northern Ireland Protocol, warning that the current way it is currently operating was not sustainable.
However, EU officials said the post-Brexit checks in Northern Ireland were a consequence of “Johnson’s pursuit of a reckless Brexit” and of the deal he signed.
One EU official said they were “committed” to the Protocol and stressed: “We believe the Protocol is here to stay.
“With joint coordination from the UK, we are committed to a firm but fair solution.”
Express.co.uk also understands the EU believes the UK made “the situation more difficult” after ruling out a food standards deal tying the UK to the EU regulations.
Brussels said this would have reduced checks on goods crossing the Irish Sea into Northern Ireland by 90 percent.
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The EU had asked the UK to align its plant, food safety, animal health and environment rules to those of the European Union.
In return, the EU said they were willing to ease checks on goods between Britain and Northern Ireland.
But UK negotiators rejected the proposal and called for the bloc to take a more flexible approach on food import and animal health regulations.
Officials said “discussions” would continue for the “next few weeks”, with another Commission official, adding: “It will be tough, but we are determined to reach an agreement.”
EU trade commissioner Valdis Dombrovskis, however, admitted that Brussels did “see the emergence of some early difficulties”.
He added: “Some relate to the withdrawal of the UK from the EU single market, which is an unavoidable consequence of the type of Brexit pursued by the UK government.
“Other issues relate to the implementation of the agreement, including the Northern Ireland protocol.
“To address these issues, the EU plans to be fully solution-oriented, and engage constructively with the UK authorities, keeping a calm but firm approach.
“I would like to reiterate the EU’s commitment to making the Protocol work, and I would add that doing so relies on joint action, through the joint bodies under the withdrawal agreement.”
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