The European Commission is reportedly losing patience with the UK government over what the bloc believes is a failure to implement aspects of the Northern Ireland Protocol as agreed back in December, it has emerged.
The Joint Committee which involves Britain’s Lord Frost and Brussels’ Maros Sefcovic is due to meet later this week to discuss solutions to the current arrangement with the former insisting that the NI Protocol as it stands is “unsustainable”.
On a visit to the province last week, Lord Frost revealed discussions with locals about “reduced availability of choice, cancelled deliveries and products being pulled” in relation to supermarket goods previously shipped over from suppliers in Great Britain.
“The Protocol relies on cross-community support but this situation does risk undermining that. Our number one priority as the UK Government is protection of the Good Friday Agreement in all its dimensions, north-south and east-west, and that is the top priority of the Protocol itself,” Frost told reporters.
However the European Commission has insisted all agreed aspects of the Protocol must remain and be implemented as agreed six months ago.
“It is important to reiterate that the protocol is the only possible solution to ensure peace and stability in Northern Ireland while protecting the integrity of the European Union single market,” Commission president Ursula von der Leyen insisted last month.
Ahead of this week’s meetings, European officials have complained over a halt in the construction of permanent inspection facilities for post-Brexit checks on agri-food goods arriving from Great Britain, an act of dissent initially announced by the DUP Agriculture Minister Gordon Lyons back in February.
“The EU has been patient, but the EU’s patience is wearing thin,” an EU official was quoted as saying in the Irish Times.
“To date the UK has not implemented the commitments that it took in December. The difficulty that we face is: how do you trust a partner in such circumstances?” the official added.
The European Commission has already launched legal action against Britain for what it perceives to be intransigence in the implementation of agreed Protocol provisions. But the British government has remained resilient and refused to bow down to Brussels’ wishes.
“Unless there’s a change of course from the UK then it seems like those kinds of measures are not sufficient and therefore we need to consider further measures. We will consider the tools and options that are available,” warned EU sources.
Hundreds of loyalists in Northern Ireland marched against the Protocol over the weekend, opposing its implementation and what they claim to be a border down the Irish Sea. With tensions rising and protests growing louder and more frequently from those who feel they have been annexed from the United Kingdom, the British government will feel pressure not to succumb to the EU’s demands.