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UK's Johnson: Post-Brexit trade deal for Northern Ireland is ‘unsustainable’

·2-min read

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson urged the European Union Thursday to look "seriously" at UK proposals to overhaul their post-Brexit trade deal for Northern Ireland, but met immediate resistance in Brussels.

Johnson told European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen in a phone call that the so-called Northern Ireland protocol was "unsustainable" and required "significant changes".

In a 28-page paper published on Wednesday, Johnson's government demanded the EU renegotiate the protocol for Northern Ireland after rioting and business disruption has plagued the province.

"He urged the EU to look at those proposals seriously and work with the UK on them," a Downing Street spokesman said shortly after the conversation.

But in a tweet released around the same time, von der Leyen said she had made clear the bloc's opposition to reworking the pact, which came into effect earlier this year.

"The EU will continue to be creative and flexible within the Protocol framework," she said. "But we will not renegotiate."

In its proposals, London stopped short of suspending the protocol, which requires checks on goods arriving from mainland Britain, and instead called for "significant changes".

It wants the EU to indefinitely abandon ad-hoc grace periods for certain border checks and freeze legal action launched against the UK for non-compliance, as part of a "standstill period" allowing for fresh negotiations.

It also wants more input on regulations being adopted in the province and the removal of any oversight role by the European Court of Justice.

The arrangements were negotiated to avoid a hard border with Ireland, by effectively keeping Northern Ireland in the EU's single market.

Northern Ireland, which suffered three decades of sectarian conflict until a peace agreement in 1998, has been rocked by violence this year, in part against the protocol.

>> How Brexit created a 'recipe for endless tension' among unionists upon Northern Ireland's centenary

Many pro-UK unionists see it as creating a de facto border in the Irish Sea with mainland Britain and say they feel betrayed, while many businesses especially supermarkets are struggling to adapt to the new rules.


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