Brandon Lewis issues Northern Ireland protocol threat over EU ‘not showing flexibility’

Brandon Lewis says EU is ‘not showing flexibility’ over protocol

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The Irish Nationalist party Sinn Fein has won Northern Ireland’s local elections in a “historic” election, with Michel O’Neill qualifying to become First Minister. But Ms O’Neill’s rise to the first minister seems a long way off, as she would need the DUP to form a coalition and get elected. But the DUP has said it has no intentions of restoring power-sharing until the government addresses their concern over the Northern Ireland Protocol. Northern Ireland Secretary Brand Lewis put the blame on the European Union for not playing their part in the negotiations.

Speaking to Sky News, Secretary Lewis lashed out: “It is really frustrating that the EU have not shown the flexibility we need to see to get that resolution.

“It’s more frustrating, I have to say, here over the last couple of days, the EU seem to be saying they are not willing to show any sort of flexibility that we need to get this resolved.

“We do think the right resolution is an agreement with the EU. We’ve always been focused on that.

“That’s why we’ve not triggered article 16.”

The Northern Ireland protocol has been a sticking point in the negotiations between the UK and the EU. In 2020, both sides agreed to a protocol where a de facto customs border would be in place in the Irish Sea, separating Northern Ireland from Great Britain – to the DUP’s discontent.

The protocol was designed to keep Northern Ireland inside the EU Customs Union and the UK outside of it following Brexit. But now the Unionists (DUP) are threatening not to take part in Government unless the protocol is scrapped or replaced, as they say the Irish Sea border puts Northern Ireland’s place in the UK at risk.

Secretary Lewis continued: “I recognise the challenges with the Northern Ireland Protocol for people across unionism.

“But we got to be clear. The protocol that was designed to protect the Good Friday Agreement is what is putting the most stress on it at the moment.

“And we can’t let that continue. We do need to get a resolution to this. We’ve always said: we take nothing off the table. That hasn’t changed.”

The Good Friday Agreement put an end to Troubles and brought back peace after a political conflict of 30 years, removing signs at the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. Both the EU and the UK made it their number one priority to keep that agreement safe and the border open, as any physical infrastructure could lead to political instability.

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“The protocol is causing problems for people across Northern Ireland. It’s not just about unionist parties or any one party”, Secretary Lewis said.

“So, it affects communities across Northern Ireland and businesses as well regardless of their voting intentions.

“And we need to get that resolved.”

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