Brussels (Brussels Morning) The European Research Group (ERG) has called on UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson to do away with the Northern Ireland Protocol, the Irish Times reported on Thursday.
The ERG, comprising EU-sceptic MPs, wants the Northern Ireland Protocol replaced to avoid border friction, stressing that a system of “mutual enforcement” should be put in its place.
All 50-some members of the group voted in favour of the withdrawal agreement which includes the Protocol. The group cited the EU’s threat last month to trigger Article 16 of the Protocol I as justification for renegotiating it.
The ERG report points out that, according to the mutual enforcement regime, authorities on both sides of the border would make sure that exporters follow the rules aimed at protecting the EU single market.
It calls on the UK government to adopt new regulations to remedy “trade diversion and societal pressures” caused by the Protocol.
ERG chair’s comments
ERG chair Mark Francois pointed out that “we will no doubt be told that the EU will never renegotiate the Protocol – just as we were repeatedly assured they would never reopen the withdrawal agreement, or indeed abandon the dreaded ‘backstop’, which the protocol eventually replaced when they subsequently did both”.
The government has noted that the EU-UK joint committee is tackling the problems surrounding the implementation of the Protocol. Co-chairs Michael Gove and Maroš Šefčovič pointed out earlier this week that they had agreed to make sure the Protocol was implemented properly.
In a joint statement, the two stressed that “the parties acknowledged the importance of joint action to make the protocol work out for the benefit of everyone in Northern Ireland“.
“The UK and the EU underlined their shared commitment to giving effect to those solutions agreed through the joint committee on 17 December 2020, without delay”, the statement notes.
While the two sides did not reach immediate agreement about extending the grace periods that have delayed some checks, both expect to agree to some extensions before the end-March expiration date set for the initial grace periods.