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A conciliatory Europe on the Northern Irish protocol



If the UK expected a snub from the European Union on the Northern Irish protocol, it has failed. Wanting to avoid the worst, the Vice-President of the European Commission, Maros Sefcovic showed understanding and pedagogue Wednesday evening, October 13, during his press conference in the form of a response to that, the day before, of the British Secretary of State. Brexit Officer David Frost on the thorny Northern Irish protocol. This device, intended both to protect the European market and to prevent the reestablishment of a physical border on the island of Ireland which would risk weakening the peace, keeps Northern Ireland in the customs union and the market. single European Union and subject it to their rules.

With the intention of easing relations while avoiding a total renegotiation of the protocol requested by London, the European representative proposed substantial adjustments: removal of 80% of the controls currently carried out for foodstuffs, provided that these products remain in Ireland of the North and that specific labeling be affixed to them; relief from customs formalities for all goods exported from Great Britain to Northern Ireland, provided the United Kingdom agrees to provide “Full and real-time access” transit data, etc.

Conciliatory, Maros Sefcovic was, but he also remained firm on the authority of the Court of Justice of the EU (CJEU) – a red line for Brussels -, which London refuses, pleading for an international arbitration in case of dispute between the parties. The European representative recalled that “We cannot have access to the single market without the supervision of the CJEU”. “It is not that the European Court of Justice exercises sovereignty over the UK or any part of the UK, added, Thursday, October 14, Irish Minister for European Affairs Thomas Byrne, it is only that the European Court of Justice is the arbiter of the European single market, in which Northern Ireland has been allowed to remain. “

In the meantime, in Northern Ireland, the reaction of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) has been unsurprising. Ian Paisley Junior, one of his MPs, felt that Maros Sefcovic’s proposals were “A first step” corn “Very far from northern Irish demands”. In contrast, Michelle O’Neill, head of Sinn Féin, said the majority of Northern Irish MPs support the protocol which “Protect our peace process and the Good Friday agreement”.

The next step should see both sides, European and British, resume a round of in-depth negotiations. Maros Sefcovic and David Frost are having lunch together this Friday, October 15. The European official calling on London to “Put aside certain disputes” and to focus on a single priority: to act “In the interests of Northern Ireland”.

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