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UK says N Ireland trade deal must be changed

By EARLE GALE in London | China Daily Global | Updated: 2021-07-22 10:02

Britain's Brexit Minister David Frost speaks during the first meeting of the Partnership Council with European Commission Vice-President Maros Sefcovic in London, June 9, 2021. [Photo/Agencies]

Negotiators claim agreement with EU has proven unfair and unsustainable

Ministers have explained how a deal agreed last year between London and Brussels must be changed to allow trade to fl ow more easily between the British mainland and Northern Ireland, which are both parts of the United Kingdom.

David Frost, who was the UK's chief Brexit negotiator, laid out the government's plans for the Northern Ireland Protocol in Parliament on Wednesday along with Brandon Lewis, the Northern Ireland secretary. They said the agreement Frost negotiated and signed has turned out to be woefully inadequate and unveiled a 28-page document that details how it should be changed.

"These proposals will require significant change to the Northern Ireland Protocol," Frost said. "We do not shy away from that. We believe such change is necessary to deal with the situation we now face."

Frost said the protocol, which was part of the so-called Brexit divorce deal agreed by the two sides as the nation left the European Union, has proved to be unfair and unsustainable.

And he said it is making life very difficult for exporters who ship products to Northern Ireland from England, Scotland, and Wales, because it requires remote customs checks, to avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland. The checks ensure items arriving in the province comply with EU standards and are not destined to be forwarded to other locations within the bloc.

The Northern Ireland Protocol effectively avoids the need for border infrastructure between the province and the Republic of Ireland by treating the province as if it is still part of the EU's single market for goods.

Frost said the Northern Ireland Protocol has made imports of items such as chilled meats virtually impossible. And he said it will be more of a problem in September, when the UK's unilaterally declared transitional period ends and the protocol is fully implemented.

Frost said: "The difficulties we have in operating the Northern Ireland Protocol are now the main obstacle to building a relationship with the EU."

Brussels has repeatedly called on the UK to immediately implement the protocol, and says it is not up for renegotiation. The bloc has also launched legal action against the UK over its alleged failure to do what it said it would do when it signed the deal.

But London said on Wednesday it will unilaterally override the protocol-basically ignore it-if the bloc refuses to get back around the table. The BBC said a government source told it, however, that such a thing will not happen "in the short term".

The Press Association said Prime Minister Boris Johnson spoke on the phone with his counterpart in the Republic of Ireland, Micheal Martin, on Tuesday, urging "pragmatism "over the future of the protocol.

The Republic of Ireland has said it is listening to the UK's concerns.

But the nation's European affairs minister, Thomas Byrne, said on Radio 4's Today program: "We're willing to discuss any creative solutions within the confines of the protocol, but we have to recognize as well that Britain decided itself to leave the single market of the European Union; to apply trade rules; to apply red tape to its goods that are leaving Britain; to goods that are coming into Britain."

The Guardian newspaper noted the United States' State Department also told the UK not to blatantly ignore the deal.

It said on Tuesday the UK and EU should "negotiate within the existing mechanisms when differences arise".

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