Maroš Šefčovič, the European Commission’s Vice President for Interinstitutional Relations & Foresight, and the co-chair of the UK-EU Joint Committee & Partnership Council, has stated categorically that the EU “will not agree to a renegotiation of the Protocol” in a damning blow to the UK government.
This website reported earlier today how UK Brexit chief Lord David Frost had told the House of Lords that the UK would be justified to trigger Article 16 of the Protocol against the EU to suspend the operation of the mechanism and protect the social and economic integrity of the United Kingdom.
But he also said that “it is not the right moment to do so”, laying out plans to re-negotiate the Protocol with EU bosses amid fresh demands to protect the UK’s customs territory and roll back the jurisdiction of the hated European Court of Justice over UK-EU relations.
“Instead, we see an opportunity to proceed differently, to find a new path, to seek to agree with the EU through negotiations a new balance in our arrangements covering Northern Ireland to the benefit of all” he said.
He demanded that a new deal needs to be struck that “needs to ensure that goods can circulate much more freely within the UK customs territory”, and said: “it’s a balance which needs to normalise the basis of the Protocol’s governance so that the relationship between us and the EU is no longer policed by EU institutions and the Court of Justice.”
But the bold statement from Šefčovič appears to close off that opportunity, with the EU refusing to come back to the table to redraw the hated Protocol – which has led to rising anger from Northern Ireland’s proud Unionist community.
With Frost admitting that the UK would be justified in taking unilateral action to suspend the operation of parts of the Protocol, and with the EU now refusing to get down to business, will the government be able to continue its dangerous course of feeble inaction?