Belgium, (Brussels Morning Newspaper) UK Minister of State for Northern Ireland Conor Burns warned that the Northern Ireland Protocol undermines the Good Friday Agreement.
Burns pointed out that he informed US officials about problems with the Protocol, dismissing Washington’s threat to block a free trade agreement between the US and the UK if the latter unilaterally overrode the Protocol, according to The Guardian reporting on Wednesday.
Nancy Pelosi, US Speaker of the House of Representatives, announced last month that Washington would block the free trade agreement if the UK took action without EU approval.
“If the United Kingdom chooses to undermine the Good Friday accords, the Congress cannot and will not support a bilateral free trade agreement,” she stressed.
Speaking in Washington last week, Burns noted that he sees a disconnect between the threat and the importance of the issue with the Protocol.
“This is too important for us – sorting out the situation in Northern Ireland, doing the right thing for the UK and for the people in Northern Ireland – to be interwoven with any foreign policy or trade ambition,” he pointed out.
Obstacle to trade
Burns warned that new rules have hampered trade between Great Britain and Northern Ireland, stressing that bureaucratic obstacles made some products unavailable in NI.
“These are products that people have enjoyed in Northern Ireland for decades that have disappeared from the shelves,” he stressed and warned “that is feeding into a sense within parts of the unionist community that somehow the protocol sets them apart from the rest of the United Kingdom.”
The UK government is calling on the EU to allow exemptions to bureaucratic obstacles to trade, noting that goods to be sold and consumed in NI do not have to undergo customs checks for the EU because they will not enter the bloc.
Maroš Šefčovič, Vice-President of the EC for Interinstitutional Relations, stated that the Commission proposed solutions to “substantially improve the way the protocol is implemented,” while the UK government accuses the EC of being inflexible.
Burns pointed out that the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) refuses to take part in a new power-sharing administration until the Protocol is changed, stressing that this shows the Protocol, rather than UK’s proposed regulations, is the problem.