Wednesday, 20 Oct 2021

Emmanuel Macron ‘very worried’ amid EU plan to ease British goods flow to Northern Ireland

EU to make 'major compromise' on easing of flow of British goods

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French President Emmanuel Macron is reported to be dismayed and proposed plans by the EU Commission to give into Lord Frost and Boris Johnson over the Northern Ireland protocol. Former European Commissioner Maroš Šefčovič is due to unveil the EU’s response to UK demands for the Brexit protocol to be scrapped later today. France 24 correspondent Dave Keating has reported that behind the scenes European capitals were expressing displeasure of the “major compromise.”

Mr Keating told France 24: “This is not giving the UK what it is asking for.

“Because the UK Government is asking to actually completely tear up the Brexit deal that was agreed two years ago and rewrite it.

“That is not what the Commission is going to put forward today they are going to suggest a series of ideas as a compromise.

“But it is a major major compromise.”

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“Because as far as we can tell, and we will have the details out later today, but as far as we can tell it would mean that about 50 percent of goods passing between Northern Ireland and the rest of the United Kingdom would not need to go through customs checks.

“That is a major major change and it has a lot of national governments in the EU very worried.

“Particularly France because this would essentially represent a chink in the EU’s customs union armour.

“They would have this open passageway into the EU single market via the United Kingdom, through Northern Ireland over to the Republic of Ireland, where a lot of those goods a lot of which is food and medicines can come through unchecked.”

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In his speech delivered to diplomats in Lisbon, Lord Frost said the current agreement was not working and that fundamental change was necessary if it was to survive.

He said the UK was prepared to trigger Article 16 of the protocol – which allows either side to override large parts of the agreement – if that could not be achieved.

“It is this government, the UK Government, that governs Northern Ireland as it does the rest of the UK,” he said.

“Northern Ireland is not EU territory. It is our responsibility to safeguard peace and prosperity and that may include using Article 16 if necessary.

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“We would not go down this route gratuitously or with any particular pleasure but it is our fundamental responsibility to safeguard peace and prosperity in Northern Ireland and that is why we cannot rest until this situation is addressed.”

Lord Frost added: “I do understand why the EU feels it is difficult to come back to an agreement reached only two years ago, though obviously that in itself is far from unusual in international relations.

“Equally, there is a widespread feeling in the UK that the EU did try to use Northern Ireland to encourage UK political forces to reverse the referendum result or at least to keep us closely aligned with the EU; and, moreover, that the Protocol represents a moment of EU overreach when the UK’s negotiating hand was tied, and therefore cannot reasonably last in its current form.

“Whether or not you agree with either analysis – the facts on the ground are what matter above all. Maybe there is a world in which the Protocol could have worked, more sensitively implemented. But the situation has now moved on. We now face a very serious situation.”

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