NI talks can progress, but only if Britain sticks to EU rules, says Brussels official

The European Commission has told Britain that if it remains aligned with the bloc’s burdensome regulations many of the problems relating to the Northern Ireland Protocol will “go away”, it has emerged.

An EU official told Irish public broadcaster RTÉ the Commission is “happy to look for solutions” relating to the implementation of the protocol “but they must be found within the framework of EU law. Some of the solutions will be limited by the kind of Brexit the UK has chosen and its decision to have a more distant relationship with the EU.”

The European Union continues to promote the narrative that the existing agreement, hated by loyalists in the province, has the potential to be “enormously beneficial for the people of Northern Ireland, with access to the single market and the UK market”.

On the talks themselves, the Brussels source told RTÉ’s Tony Connelly that there has been an “improved atmosphere” in recent times as both sides attempt to find a compromise on the protocol’s implementation after a less than successful start to post-Brexit relations, but suggested that talks would be much easier if the UK kept in line with EU rules.

There is a “very big incentive” for the UK to remain aligned with Brussels’ extremely high standards, said the source, adding: “If they remained aligned then many of the problems would go away”. However, if Brexit Britain insists on its “structural choice to be more distant” and diverges from European regulations, problems will not be resolved.

Former Conservative MEP David Campbell Bannerman said: “The EU has always hated the more ‘distant relationship’ that we chose with SuperCanada style FTA. They mention it every time. This is because they weaponised the Ireland border to try to entrap the UK and use it to control us through regulations. We need to be robust and keep Article 16 handy.”

Conservative peer Lord Moylan blasted the EU’s “cynicism” in claiming that its “undemocratic rule in Northern Ireland is ‘the best of both worlds’.

“The kindest explanation is that it hasn’t a clue what’s happening in its new economic colony. More likely is it just doesn’t care.”