Maros Sefcovic: North Protocol Bill damages trust and respect towards the EU

The UK government’s controversial legislation, which would authorize UK ministers to unilaterally suspend parts of the Northern Ireland Protocol, is damaging to trust and respect for the EU, Maros Sefcovic said.

Speaking to the British-Irish Association conference in Oxford, the Vice-President of the European Commission warned that it was “legally and politically inconceivable” for the UK government to try to change the conditions under which goods enter the EU’s single market can reach.

The government is moving ahead with its bill to give ministers the power to abolish controls on trade in the Irish Sea created by the post-Brexit protocol jointly agreed by Britain and the EU as part of the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement was made to allow the Irish land border to flow freely.

However, Mr Sefcovic said the EU had already put forward “far-reaching” proposals to address concerns raised by stakeholders in Northern Ireland over the use of the protocol.

He said the EU proposals would create a dual carriageway for goods to travel from the UK to Northern Ireland and reduce sanitary and phytosanitary inspections and controls by more than 80%.

He said: “However, these proposals were never seriously taken up by my colleagues. In short, they were fired without anything in return.

“The UK hasn’t even had meaningful talks with us since February.

“Instead, we are now faced with the UK Government’s continued determination to move forward with the Northern Ireland Protocol Bill, which aims to override core elements of the Protocol.

“Of course, this unilateral action is of great concern to the EU.

“It is not up to the UK Government alone to change our bilateral agreement and modify the conditions under which goods can enter the EU single market and reach our consumers.

“It’s just unimaginable from a legal and political point of view.

“This clear breach of international law is extremely damaging to mutual trust and respect between the EU and the UK.”

Mr Sefcovic said the UK Government’s pursuit of the bill was creating “deep uncertainty” for businesses and people in Northern Ireland in the face of criticism.

He added: “Only collective solutions can provide the legal certainty and predictability that people and businesses in Northern Ireland need and deserve.

“I am convinced that with political will and commitment, we can still realize the full potential of our far-reaching proposals and find a way forward.

“This call for the UK Government to work with us has been clear for over a year.

“And it still stands – including to the new British Prime Minister and the new government.

“Further unilateral action could give many in the EU the impression that the British leadership is not that keen on working with the EU.

“For my part, I am ready to work intensively and constructively with any new British interlocutor to find a common solution within the protocol.

“The EU will never leave the table.” Maros Sefcovic: North Protocol Bill damages trust and respect towards the EU

Fry Electronics Team

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