Brexit: EU ambassador believes UK plan is 'illegal'
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Boris Johnson’s Protocol aimed at scrapping the Irish Sea checks border is “illegal”, the EU Ambassador to the UK, João de Almeida, has condemned. The new bill, introduced by Foreign Secretary Lizz Truss, was meant to address the DUP’s concerns around the Irish Sea border after they refused to share power with Sinn Fein in the Northern Ireland’s Assembly. To put an end to the political crisis, Secretary Truss put forward a bill that she said respects international law and addresses the DUP’s concerns.
Speaking to Sky News, the EU Ambassador to the UK refuted that position.
When asked about the UK’s chances of resolving the Northern Ireland conundrum, Mr De Almeidas said: “We remain very much committed to that. We want to find a way out. I’m afraid the government’s strike may be, probably, unfortunately, the road to nowhere. And we would like to avoid that.
Sky News’ Trevor Philips then asked: “When you said a road to nowhere, you’re basically dismissing what they’re proposing? I mean, Mr Lewis told us that there was going to be a new bill. He’s going to try and deal with the practical problems and so on. Are you simply dismissing what they offered.”
“No, we’re not dismissing,” retorted Ambassador de Almeida. “But we read it very carefully. And I think to be very frank, we think it is both illegal and unrealistic. It is illegal because it’s a breach of international law, a breach of EU law, UK law and international law.
“It’s a treaty that we signed, ratified and even went through a general election in this country. We also believe it is unrealistic because it does not provide the real alternative to the protocol. You know, we had long negotiations, trying to sort of square the circle around the problems created by Brexit and the kind of Brexit that was chosen in Northern Ireland.
“None of us – British side and our side – could find anything other than this platform to try and address those issues. We’re committed to find the practical solutions on implementation but we cannot start talking if the baseline is to say everything we have agreed before is to be put aside.”
Mr Phillips then asked: “So, we’re at a stalemate, really, aren’t we?”
“For the moment, we are,” said Mr de Almeida. “But let me say that we are very committed to finding solutions. We’ve been to Northern Ireland several times. We talked all the time to Northern Ireland stakeholders as much as we talk to our interlocutors in London. I think we found solutions for problems or the main problems we found in implementing this protocol.
“We’re about to reduce – we’re willing to reduce by 80 percent the sanitary checks, by 50 percent the paperwork on people. You know normally if we applied the rules by the book, a lorry that carries different kinds of goods will have hundreds of pages of paperwork. We have reduced it to less than 3 pages per lorry.
“But there have to be controls because it is as much about protecting the Good Friday agreement, which we are very committed, it’s also about protecting the single market of the European Union.”
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Conflicting positions emerged from the Northern Ireland conundrum. While the DUP wants to scrap the Irish Sea border, the EU has refused to carry out checks between the two Irelands, as it would violate the Good Friday Agreement. The EU has remained inflexible and pushed for a border in order to protect the EU single market.
Liz Truss came forward with a bill that would scrap the Irish Sea border and impose a system of lanes. Goods travelling from Great Britain to the EU would go through checks via the red line, while goods destined to Northern Ireland would go via the green line without checks.
However, the EU has called the bill “illegal”, further exacerbating the Northern Ireland issue.
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