Sefcovic hits out as the EU fear the Brexit bill would erode confidence with the European Union

The vice president of the European Commission cautioned the UK Government that changing the Northern Ireland Protocol, using the Brexit bill to do so, would be “legally and politically inconceivable” in a speech at the British-Irish Association conference in Oxford. 

The Government is moving forward with its Brexit bill to grant ministers the authority to end the restrictions on trade in the Irish Sea brought about by the post-Brexit protocol, which was jointly agreed upon by the UK and EU as part of the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement in order to maintain the openness of the Irish land border. 

To address concerns expressed by stakeholders in Northern Ireland about how the protocol operates, Mr Sefcovic said that the EU had already made “far-reaching” recommendations. He said that the EU’s plans would cut inspections and controls for health and plant safety by more than 80% and set up a fast track for goods going from the UK to Northern Ireland. 

Mr Sefcovic said: “These proposals have, however, never been seriously picked up by my counterparts. In short, they were dismissed without consideration.

“The UK has not even engaged in any meaningful discussions with us since February.

Major Brand Discounts

“Instead, we are now faced with the UK Government’s continuing determination to push forward the Northern Ireland Protocol Bill, set to disapply core elements of the Protocol.

“This unilateral action is naturally of great concern to the EU.

“It is not for the UK Government alone to change our bilateral agreement and modify the conditions under which goods can enter the EU’s Single Market and reach our consumers.

“This is simply legally and politically inconceivable.

“This clear breach of international law is extremely damaging to mutual trust and respect between the EU and the UK.”

The UK Government, according to Mr. Sefcovic, is causing “deep uncertainty” for companies and residents in Northern Ireland by pushing through with the Bill despite objections.

He continued: “Only joint solutions can create the legal certainty and predictability that people and businesses in Northern Ireland need and deserve.

“I am convinced that with political will and commitment, we can still explore the full potential of our far-reaching proposals and find a way forward.

“This call to the UK Government to engage with us has been clear for over a year.

“And it still stands – also vis-a-vis the incoming UK Prime Minister and Government.

“Further unilateral action may give the impression to many in the EU that the UK leadership is not that interested in co-operation with the EU.

“For my part, I stand ready to work intensively and constructively with any new UK interlocutor to find a common solution within the Protocol.

“The EU will never leave the table.”

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