Northern Ireland news

European Commission says Northern Ireland Protocol talks with UK government 'will be solutions driven'

A poster against the NI Protocol on the gates of Stormont in east Belfast. Picture by Mal McCann...

THE European Commission has said it is "fully committed" to the proper implementation of the Northern Ireland Protocol but will bring a "constructive" and "solutions-driven" attitude to meetings with the British government this week.

Spokesman Dan Ferrie also pledged support for the Good Friday Agreement when asked for its response to legal action supported by the main unionist parties and a number of Westminster politicians against the Protocol.

The challenge argues that the protocol contravenes both the 1800 Act of Union and the Good Friday Agreement.

According to RTÉ, Mr Ferrie said the document - negotiated in the Withdrawal Agreement - was about "protecting the gains of the peace process, protecting and maintaining stability, avoiding a hard border on the island of Ireland, and importantly, minimising the impact of Brexit on the everyday lives of communities north and south of the border".

He referred to the joint commitment by the co-chairs of the EU/UK Joint Committee, commission vice president Maros Sefcovic and UK Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove, on February 11 to "spare no effort" to implement flexibilities agreed by both sides on its application to Northern Ireland.

He also referred to round-table meetings Mr Sefcovic held last week with Northern Ireland business groups and civil society, "all of which showed quite constructive, solution-driven discussions and outcomes."

Mr Ferrie said today's meeting of the technical level Specialised Committee and tomorrow's Joint Committee meeting would see a similar attitude.

Meanwhile, German MEP David McAllister, chair of the parliament's UK Co-ordination Group, said while "flexible" and "pragmatic" solutions to some of the issues around the protocol should be found there will be no "thorough review" of it or any amendments.

He said it is in place "to avoid a hard border between the Republic and Northern Ireland, to enable the true functioning of the all-island economy and safeguarding the Good Friday Agreement in all its dimensions, and to ensure the integrity of our single market for goods, along with all the guarantees it offers in terms of consumer protection, public and animal health".

The centre-right MEP, who is also chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee, said: "The protocol, in the end, was the issue of squaring the circle [of Brexit and the island of Ireland] and this was a compromise that was found and accepted by both sides."

He added: "We want to work for practical solutions. We will continue to explore all flexibilities available under the applicable EU rules and within the framework of the protocol."

Mr McAllister said "the EU 26 ... stand firm with the Republic of Ireland", but it is important "both sides continue to de-escalate, that we calm tensions".

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