The president of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, has rejected Boris Johnson’s decision to renegotiate the Northern Ireland protocol, raising the temperature of a Brexit dispute to simmer.
“The EU will continue to be creative and flexible within the framework of the protocol. But we will not renegotiate, “he said after a call with the prime minister on Thursday.
EU sources said the call lasted about 30 minutes and Von der Leyen made it clear that they spoke at Johnson’s request.
While not a surprise, his refusal, less than 24 hours after the government put in place a plan to renegotiate a central part of the Brexit deal, comes as a blow to Johnson, who made repeated false claims that there would be no customs checks between Gran Brittany. and Northern Ireland.
The EU has rallied against the UK’s plan to rewrite the Northern Ireland protocol, a hard-fought deal with Johnson in 2019 that created a customs border in the Irish Sea.
In an official reading of the prime minister’s call with Von der Leyen, a Downing Street spokesman repeated the UK government’s case in favor of renegotiation. “The prime minister pointed out that the way the protocol currently operated was unsustainable. No solutions could be found through the protocol’s existing mechanisms. That is why we had submitted proposals for significant changes.
“He urged the EU to take those proposals seriously and work with the UK on them. There is a great opportunity to find practical and reasonable solutions to the difficulties faced by individuals and businesses in Northern Ireland and thus improve the relationship between the UK and the EU. They agreed to stay in touch. “
The prime minister made the same points in a separate call with German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
Johnson’s spokesman said the prime minister “did not expect the EU to take such a purist and maximalist approach” to implementing the protocol, but could not point to any breaches of the agreement by Brussels.
“There are real life issues that people are facing on the ground in Northern Ireland that need to be addressed,” the spokesperson said, adding that the government had launched a consultation aimed at “reducing the Brexit bureaucracy.”
Johnson’s spokesman said the prime minister did not want the protocol scrapped “at this time.”
The UK’s attempt to renegotiate has infuriated EU decision-makers, who have already proposed changes to reduce the impact on the citizens of Northern Ireland. Further adjustments are still possible, but the EU has ruled out a full-scale renegotiation.
A. #Brexit Reminder: The Northern Ireland Protocol was negotiated by the government of 🇬🇧. It was signed by the 🇬🇧 government. It was ratified by the 🇬🇧 Parliament. Its consequences were known.
Is it too much to expect 🇬🇧 to keep what it has negotiated, signed and ratified?
– Sebastian Fischer (@SFischer_EU) July 21, 2021
In an unusually forceful statement, a German government spokesman tweeted: “Is it too much to expect that [UK] keep what you have negotiated, signed and ratified. “
An EU diplomat said that Brexit Minister David Frost had produced “a half-baked proposal” with difficult concepts. Brussels is opposed to Lord Frost’s suggestion that merchants should be trusted to move goods between Great Britain and Northern Ireland with minimal oversight, believing such a regime could be exploited by smugglers and fast and free gambling companies. with two sets of rules.
The goal of ripping the European court of law out of protocol has also fallen on rocky ground. EU sources argue that Frost has mischaracterized the court’s role in the protocol, exaggerating its importance.
The protocol underlines that the court has sole responsibility for deciding on issues of EU law, a point that officials say is the cornerstone of the EU’s legal order that cannot be changed.
The agreement also allows the British government to be sued in the Court of Justice of the European Union (ECJ), with a court case already presented by Brussels for alleged infractions.
UK sources think the ECJ is unusual for such an international treaty and fear that the government’s room for maneuver will be limited by what is seen as the extreme inflexibility of the EU system.
The talks will continue between the two parties. “It would be a mistake to dismiss political concerns simply because [the UK] He adhered to this, “said the diplomat,” although many of the concerns are known from the beginning. “