PM warns EU to 'look seriously' at UK demands for NI trade rule change

Boris Johnson warns EU’s Von Der Leyen to ‘look seriously’ at UK demands for changes to post-Brexit Northern Ireland Protocol to ease social and economic strife – as Cabinet minister claims agreement was always meant to be temporary and ‘flexible’

  • The Prime Minister spoke with European Commission president today 
  • UK wants the EU to agree to rewrite parts of protocol agreed in 2019 
  • But the EU has ruled out wholesale changes, saying protocol must be followed 

Boris Johnson demanded the EU ‘look seriously’ at UK demands to rip up the post-Brexit agreement after less than two years in order to prevent social and economic strife in Northern Ireland.

The Prime Minister spoke with European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen today and told her the way the  current Northern Ireland Protocol ‘was currently operating was unsustainable.’

Their call came the day after ministers revealed a new plan to ease the deadlock over checks on goods including chilled meats into Ulster. 

Brexit minister Lord Frost said on Wednesday that the Protocol, part of the Brexit divorce deal agreed by the UK and Brussels, was undermining the Good Friday Agreement and urged the European Union to look at UK proposals for change.  

Downing Street said the Prime Minister told Ms von der Leyen and the rest of the EU to engage with solutions put forward by the UK because ‘solutions could not be found through the existing mechanisms of the Protocol’.

‘That was why we had set out proposals for significant changes to it. 

‘He urged the EU to look at those proposals seriously and work with the UK on them. 

‘There is a huge opportunity to find reasonable, practical solutions to the difficulties facing people and businesses in Northern Ireland, and thereby to put the relationship between the UK and the EU on a better footing. They agreed to remain in touch.’

But after the call Ms von der Leyen tweeted: ”The EU will continue to be creative and flexible within the Protocol framework. But we will not renegotiate. 

The Prime Minister spoke with European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen today and told her the way the current Northern Ireland Protocol ‘was currently operating was unsustainable.’

But after the call Ms von der Leyen tweeted: ”The EU will continue to be creative and flexible within the Protocol framework. But we will not renegotiate.

Their call came the day after ministers revealed a new plan to ease the deadlock over checks on goods including chilled meats into Ulster.

‘We must jointly ensure stability and predictability in Northern Ireland.’

 It came after a senior Cabinet minister claimed post-Brexit trading arrangements were always meant to be flexible. 

Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng said the protocol, which effectively keeps Northern Ireland in the EU’s single market for goods, was never ‘something that was going to last forever’.

He told Sky News: ‘A deal is a deal but it wasn’t something that was going to last forever.

‘Nobody thought the Northern Ireland Protocol was going to define the role of Northern Ireland within the UK forevermore, it was something that was flexible.

‘You’ll remember two years ago people said we were never going to get a deal from the EU but we did so.

‘When people say they’re not going to look at the protocol again, I say ‘well, let’s just see’.’

The protocol was put in place to ensure there would be no hard border with Ireland, but it has instead effectively placed a trade barrier in the Irish Sea.

However, Lord Frost said the economic and social damage caused by the arrangements would have justified the use of Article 16, effectively tearing up parts of the deal.

The difficulties caused by the arrangements have meant Northern Ireland had faced reductions in supermarket product lines.

Marks & Spencer’s chairman warned there will be some ‘gaps on shelves’ in Northern Ireland this Christmas.

Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng said the protocol, which effectively keeps Northern Ireland in the EU’s single market for goods, was never ‘something that was going to last forever’.

One idea put forward would be for UK traders to declare whether the final destination for their goods was Northern Ireland or the Republic.

European Commission vice-president Maros Sefcovic flatly rejected the UK’s call to renegotiate elements of the agreement on Wednesday.

Lord Frost’s proposals are thought to require changes to at least three of the protocol’s articles.

He called for a ‘standstill’ period, preserving the current grace periods and suspending legal action taken by the EU against the UK while changes are negotiated.

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