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EU takes ‘overly cumbersome’ approach to Northern Ireland protocol, Johnson says

By on June 11, 2021 0

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has suggested that the European Union take an “overly cumbersome” approach to post-Brexit trade deals for the North.

Mr Johnson, who signed the Brexit divorce deal which included the Northern Ireland protocol, insisted he was not trying to reverse the deal.

But he said the UK’s ‘internal market’ must be respected and ‘we just have to make it work’.

The EU has threatened to take action against Britain if it does not implement controls on goods entering the North under the Brexit “divorce” deal signed by Mr Johnson.

The prospect of a ‘sausage war’ trade dispute arose after UK Brexit Minister David Frost refused to rule out the possibility that the UK could unilaterally delay imposing checks on meats British-made refrigerators which are expected to come into effect at the end of the month.

The protocol effectively keeps the North in the European single market in order to avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland.

Johnson, who will meet with EU leaders during the G7 summit, which begins today in Cornwall, told the BBC: “You will understand that there are ways to enforce the protocol, means of making it work, it can be excessively cumbersome.

“Let me give you just one statistic: 20% of checks carried out across the entire EU perimeter are now carried out in Northern Ireland, three times more than in Rotterdam.

The new post-Brexit deals came into effect on January 1 and the dispute is still brewing, but Mr Johnson insisted ‘I think we can fix the problem’.

US President Joe Biden is taking a keen interest in the dispute and has warned of anything that could destabilize the arrangements put in place by the Belfast Accord.

The Brexit dispute has heightened tensions for trade unionists in the North, who believe the protocol created an “Irish Sea border”, cutting them off from Britain.

The White House has indicated that Mr Biden is deeply concerned about the situation – and the approach of Mr Johnson’s government in it – but the British prime minister downplayed the prospect of a split.

“The president said no such thing,” he told the BBC after their talks on Thursday.

“But what I think you can certainly say … is that everyone – and that includes me, including our friends in Brussels, that includes Washington – everyone has a huge stake in making sure that we keep the essential symmetry of the Good Friday Accord, we keep the balance.

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At a press conference ahead of the G7 summit, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen insisted that the protocol is the “only solution” to prevent a hard border between the North and the Republic and must be fully implemented.

“We have been flexible, we will be flexible, but the protocol and the Withdrawal Agreement (Brexit) must be fully implemented,” she said.

French President Emmanuel Macron also warned that the Brexit deal could not be renegotiated.

Ms von der Leyen and Mr Macron traveled to Cornwall on Friday morning and will meet with Mr Johnson during the summit.

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