Northern Ireland: Unionists march against Brexit arrangements
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The Northern Ireland protocol, the Brexit agreement in regards to this part of the UK, has caused tensions to mount ever since a deal was signed on December 24, 2020. But now tensions with Brussels over Northern Ireland’s borders threaten to spiral out of control as crunch talks take place on Wednesday, with both the UK and European Union (EU) at loggerheads over Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s implementation of the Brexit agreement.
What is the Northern Ireland sausage trade war?
One top EU official, European Commission vice president Maros Sefcovic, is threatening to prevent sausages and mince produced in the UK to be sold in Northern Ireland by the end of this month.
The row started over the protocol, a post-Brexit arrangement which is designed to keep the Irish border open by ensuring the province continues to follow EU trading rules.
Mr Johnson is threatening to unilaterally extend a grace period – due to expire on June 30 – which means chilled meats produced in the mainland can currently be sent to Northern Ireland.
But ahead of his talks with Lord Frost, Mr Sefcovic this week threatened to retaliate “swiftly, firmly and resolutely” with a ban on selling mince and sausages.
Yet speaking as he arrived in London’s St Pancras International, the EC vice president said: “I’m coming in a constructive spirit.
“I think we are approaching the crossroads where we can have two possible routes.
“One is [a] road of cooperative, joint action and constructive engagement, and the other will lead us to the more difficult situation which will be generated by further unilateral actions.
“Therefore I hope that with Lord Frost we find more of the solutions to clearly opt for the first path, because only that will bring us to the long-lasting solutions and not quick fixes.
“This is the spirit of my mind in which I’m coming to London, which I hope I will find on the other side as well.”
Calling for common sense from Brussels, the UK’s chief Brexit negotiator Lord David Frost claims time is short and threats of legal action won’t help the people of Northern Ireland.
The UK and EU are holding talks on Wednesday to try and come to an agreement on the matter.
Speaking ahead of the talks, Lord Frost said: “Today’s historic first meeting of the UK-EU Partnership Council marks an important milestone in our new relationship as friendly trading partners and sovereign equals.
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“Along with the Joint Committee, I hope this will be a productive forum where we can address shared challenges by working together in the spirit of mutual trust and cooperation.
“First among these challenges is the damaging impact the Protocol is having on the ground in Northern Ireland.
“Businesses in Great Britain are choosing not to sell their goods into Northern Ireland because of burdensome paperwork, medicine manufacturers are threatening to cut vital supplies, and chilled meats from British farmers destined for the Northern Ireland market are at risk of being banned entirely.
“When I meet Maros Sefcovic later today, my message will be clear: time is short and practical solutions are needed now to make the protocol work.”
On the night before the talks, Mr Johnson and EC president Ursula von der Leyen discussed the deadlock over the Northern Ireland protocol in a phone call.
A Number 10 spokesperson: “The Prime Minister set out that the UK is committed to finding practical solutions that protect the aims of the Belfast [Good Friday] Agreement and minimise the impact on the lives of people in Northern Ireland.”
The official spokesperson added that Mr Johnson had “underlined” to the EC “the need for quick progress”.
But Ms von der Leyen said she expressed her “deep concern” on the implementation of post-Brexit agreements in the call and tweeted: “We will discuss how to progress and ensure compliance in margins of G7.”
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