The European Commission will seek “creative solutions” to difficulties in trade between Britain and Northern Ireland caused by Brexit but will not renegotiate the Brexit deal on Northern Ireland, Commission Vice President Maros Sefcovic says.
On Wednesday (local time), Britain demanded a new deal from the European Union to govern post-Brexit trade with Northern Ireland, saying it already had cause to step away from parts of the deal that it struck with officials in Brussels only in 2020.
“We will continue to engage with the UK, also on the suggestions made today,” Mr Sefcovic said in a statement.
“We are ready to continue to seek creative solutions, within the framework of the Protocol, in the interest of all communities in Northern Ireland. However, we will not agree to a renegotiation of the Protocol,” he said.
The Northern Ireland protocol, backed by British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, was part of the settlement that finally sealed Britain’s sometimes bitter divorce from the bloc, four years after Britons voted to leave in a referendum.
It established border controls between Britain and Northern Ireland, which remained part of the EU customs area.
“The Protocol… is the joint solution that the EU found with Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Lord David Frost – and was ratified by the UK Parliament – to address the unique challenges that Brexit, and the type of Brexit chosen by the British government, poses for the island of Ireland,” Mr Sefcovic said.
He noted the aim of the protocol was to protect peace in Northern Ireland and avoid a hard border with EU member Ireland while not opening a back door to the EU’s single market for goods that do not meet EU standards.
“In order for these objectives to be achieved, the Protocol must be implemented. Respecting international legal obligations is of paramount importance,” Mr Sefcovic said.
He said the EU offered on June 30 a package of measures to address certain pressing issues in Northern Ireland’s trade with Britain, including changing the EU’s own rules to ensure long-term supply of medicines from Britain to Northern Ireland.
“Joint action in the joint bodies established by the (Brexit) Withdrawal Agreement will be of paramount importance over the coming months. We must prioritise stability and predictability in Northern Ireland,” Mr SSefcovic said.