Renegotiation of Northern Ireland Protocol 'not an option', says Šefčovič

Renegotiation of Northern Ireland Protocol 'not an option', says Šefčovič

VICE PRESIDENT of the European Commission Maroš Šefčovič has said that the renegotiation of the Northern Ireland Protocol is not an option and that the "European Union is united in this position."

His comments came following the Queen's Speech yesterday and accompanying background notes.

The speech was delivered by Prince Charles, with the background notes saying that following the elections in Northern Ireland, "the problems caused by the Protocol continue to stand in the way of an Executive being formed."

"In the interests of all communities of Northern Ireland, the Protocol needs to change," the notes continued. "We urge our partners in the EU to work with us, with new imagination and flexibility, to deliver that.

"We will continue to talk with the EU but we will not let that stand in the way of protecting peace and stability in Northern Ireland. As any responsible government would, we will take the steps necessary to protect all dimensions of the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement and meet our obligations under the New Decade New Approach Deal to protect Northern Ireland’s place in the UK internal market."

In response, Šefčovič said in a statement that the EU "wishes to have a positive and stable relationship with the United Kingdom."

"The Protocol on Ireland/Northern Ireland of the Withdrawal Agreement is an integral part of that relationship. It is the solution found with the current UK government in order to protect the 1998 Good Friday (Belfast) Agreement in all its dimensions and therefore also avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland, whilst protecting the integrity of the EU Single Market."

He said the EU has been "open to" working with the UK on implementing the Protocol "to bring long-term legal certainty and predictability to the people and business in Northern Ireland," and that the EU remains open to such discussions.

"Only joint solutions will work," he said. "Unilateral action by the UK would only make our work on possible solutions more difficult."

"From the very beginning, the EU has worked tirelessly to propose creative and durable solutions, showing flexibility on how the Protocol should be implemented. It has shown that solutions can be found without changing the Protocol. For instance, the EU has ensured that the same medicines continue to be available in Northern Ireland at the same time as in the rest of the UK.

"We want to finalise these solutions as quickly as possible. But to do this, we need the UK government to show the same level of determination and creativity. With political will and genuine commitment, joint solutions to legitimate practical issues raised by people and businesses in Northern Ireland can be found within the framework of the Protocol."

Foreign Secretary Liz Truss has reportedly ask officials to prepare draft legislation that would unilaterally scrap parts of the Northern Ireland protocol, removing the need for checks between Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

As well as scrapping checks, the draft legislation would also take away powers of the European court of justice and remove all requirement for Northern Irish businesses to follow EU regulations.

Negotiations will continue tomorrow between the EU and UK to resolve differences over the Protocol.