Brexit

Discussions on Northern Ireland Protocol ‘at a crossroads', Michelle O'Neill says

A sign on the approach to the port town of Larne protesting against the Irish Sea border imposed by Brexit
Rebecca Black and David Young, PA

Deputy First Minister Michelle O'Neill has challenged the UK Government to “honour its commitments” on the Brexit Protocol.

Speaking after a meeting of the joint UK/EU committee on the implementation of the Protocol, Michelle O’Neill said she felt they were at a “crossroads”.

She said progress had been made in some areas during the meeting, including on the supply of medicines from Britain, but there was “still a way to go” on other sticking points.

“I think certainly we’re probably at a crossroads point, I think that was certainly the indication from the EU side,” she told a Stormont press conference.

“Certainly there’s a frustration that the British Government have signed up to this agreement, however they have failed to bring forward ways to implement the Protocol in its entirety.”

On the issue of potential restrictions on medicine supplies into Northern Ireland from Britain when a grace period ends at the end of 2021, Ms O’Neill said: “We discussed in particular the issue of medicines, which is important that we find a solution there.

“And I think all sides are willing to do so and I’d be hopeful that there will be a solution found there, but there still is more work to be done.”

Ms O’Neill said it was made clear to the UK Government that an agreement with the EU on veterinary standards, even a temporary one, would remove the need for the majority of the new checks.

Unionists in Northern Ireland have called for the scrapping of the Protocol.

The Sinn Féin vice president said she made it clear that not everyone in the north believes the Protocol should be scrapped.

“I took the opportunity at the meeting to address head-on with the EU Commission and indeed with David Frost that the Protocol has afforded opportunity, it does afford protection to the local business community here but it certainly affords opportunity in that we have access to both the British market and the EU market,” she added.

Read more: Brussels threatens trade war over Northern Ireland Protocol

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