BE FLEXIBLE! Even Remainer Lords rage at EU for Brexit chaos as they demand urgent fix
Lord Frost provides update on Northern Ireland protocol
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Peers in the House of Lords warned Northern Ireland risked becoming a “permanent casualty” of Brexit unless the UK and EU can find a compromise. The Protocol, introduced as part of the 2019 withdrawal agreement, caused repeated clashes between the UK and EU since January.
Ministers argue the “purist” implementation of customs checks on goods crossing the Irish Sea is having a detrimental impact on trade within the United Kingdom.
In their report, the House of Lords Protocol on Ireland/Northern Ireland Committee agreed, arguing the EU’s “lack of balance, understanding and flexibility” was having a devastating impact.
The UK claims Brussels enforces more customs checks on goods entering Northern Ireland from Britain than it does on goods entering the whole of the rest of the single market.
The peers also blamed the UK Government for the heightened Brexit tensions.
They said ministers had shown a “lack of clarity, transparency and readiness” on the Protocol.
Slamming both sides for a “fundamentally flawed approach” to the issue, the committee urged both sides to compromise to find an urgent solution.
They said a lack of trust on both sides has “contributed to a serious deterioration in relations between London, Belfast, Dublin and Brussels”.
Last week Brexit minister Lord Frost unveiled a series of proposals which the UK hopes will ease problems caused by the Protocol.
They include being more lenient in its enforcement of customs checks, scrapping requirements for Northern Ireland goods to meet EU laws if they comply with British legislation, and agreeing to remove the European Court of Justice as the arbitrator of the Protocol.
Lord Jay of Ewelme, Chair of the Protocol on Ireland/Northern Ireland Committee, said: “The publication last week of the Government’s proposals for a new way forward on the Protocol is a significant development that would fundamentally alter the way in which the Protocol operates.
“As we await the EU’s considered response, the clear message from our report and the evidence we have heard is that both the UK and the EU need to compromise in the interests of Northern Ireland.
“That won’t be easy, but it is an absolute necessity that the UK and the EU should now work together urgently to identify solutions if Northern Ireland is not to become a permanent casualty of the Brexit process.”
The EU initially appeared to reject the UK’s proposals, with Commission President Ursula von der Leyen saying: “The EU will continue to be creative and flexible within the Protocol framework. But we will not renegotiate.”
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However, on Wednesday the bloc struck a more consolidators tone.
“The Commission will carefully assess the new proposals made by the UK, in accordance with the necessary consultation procedures, both internally, and with the European Parliament,” a European Commission spokeswoman said.
Pushing for both sides to find a solution, the peers said “time, patience, dialogue” were the key to a breakthrough.
Lord Jay reflected on the progress made on peace talks in the 1990s as hope for an easing of tensions over the Protocol.
He said: “The tensions over the Protocol currently seem insoluble.
“Yet that was also true of the political situation during the Troubles.
“But the peace process ultimately took root and flourished, through a process of time, patience, dialogue, and most of all trust.
“Those same qualities are now needed to address the problems that Brexit and the Protocol present.”
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