Cannot drop NI protocol! Barnier lashes out at Boris as measure only solution to Brexit

Michel Barnier: It cannot be possible to drop this protocol

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Former EU Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier hit out at Boris Johnson for “knowing exactly what he signed” when the UK and EU reached a post-Brexit agreement. DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson has said that, unless there is decisive action from the Government to restore Northern Ireland’s place within the UK internal market, then the stability of the Stormont institutions will be brought into question. Speaking to BBC Newsnight, Mr Barnier said: “I worked every day, sometimes every night during these four years thinking about this point and this clear danger to the peace in Ireland, in case of any trouble for the Good Friday Agreement.

“We’d take a lot of time to work with the British Government with Theresa May.

“We found a solution with Theresa May and finally we found an agreement with Boris Johnson, not against him, not without him but with him.

“Once again, every word, every sentence was negotiated.

“There was no surprise.”

Host Emily Maitlis interjected: “But you recognise that the protocol is not working.

“If Jeffrey Donaldson says it’s the end of power-sharing. If that’s not going to create peace, does the EU not have to be more flexible?”

Mr Barnier continued: “The Vice-President of the Commission, Maros Sefcovic said several times, we are ready to find a practical and operational solution in the framework of the protocol.

“Boris Johnson knew exactly what he signed.”

Ms Maitlis asked: “Don’t you think the protocol will just be dropped eventually? Quietly dropped?”

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Mr Barnier replied: “It cannot be possible to drop this protocol because it’s the only way to find a solution for all the problems created by Brexit.

“What creates problems in Ireland is Brexit, nothing else.”

It comes as European Commission vice president Maros Sefcovic told German news website Der Spiegel that problems with the Northern Ireland Protocol – a way to maintain a free-flowing land border on the island of Ireland after Brexit – meant the UK “broke international law” in trying to get round the arrangement.

But he said he is still confident that a compromise can be found between the two sides, although he admitted it will not be easy.

Mr Sefcovic told Der Spiegel he is “pragmatic” about Foreign Secretary Liz Truss taking on responsibility for post-Brexit negotiations with the EU, after Brexit minister Lord Frost resigned earlier this month.


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But he warned that if Ms Truss was to trigger Article 16, a move that would effectively unilaterally suspend the treaty agreed between the UK and the EU, it would throw into jeopardy “the foundation of the entire deal” reached between the two sides.

Ms Truss has said she remains prepared to invoke Article 16 if issues are not resolved.

But Mr Sefcovic said: “This is a very distracting element in the discussions. You try to achieve something together and – bam – there’s the threat of Article 16 again.

“It touches on the fundamentals of our relationship.

“The Northern Ireland Protocol was the most complicated part of the Brexit negotiations, and it is the foundation of the entire deal. Without the protocol, the whole system will collapse. We must prevent that at any cost.”

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