Brexit: Mairead McGuinness says UK needs to ‘come together’
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And Ray Bassett has urged Brussels to adopt a less “pedantic” stance – warning it has nothing to gain by doing so. Mr Bassett, Ireland’s former ambassador to Canada, Jamaica and the Bahamas, was speaking at a time of raised tensions over the issue.
The Irish inability to get the EU to be flexible on the implementation of the NI Protocol is yet another example of the hugely diminished Irish influence on EU policy post-Brexit
Britain’s decision to extend the grace period relating to checks on goods travelling between Great Britain and Northern Ireland has enraged eurocrats, with President Ursula von der Leyen’s European Commission having launched legal action against what they see as a breach of international law.
Mr Bassett, a eurosceptic who believes Ireland should follow the UK’s example by opting for a so-called Irexit, told Express.co.uk: “The hope must be that the move by the UK to overrule elements of the Withdrawal Agreement is part of a negotiating tactic to force the EU into a more realistic and pragmatic position on GB to NI trade.
“It appears that Brussels has been very intransigent despite strong Irish support for concessions which would lessen the obstacles thrown up by the implementation of the NI Protocol.”
It was is in nobody’s interest to have the ongoing row over arrangements for Northern Ireland, with First Minister Arlene Foster’s DUP furious at what they regard as a border down the Irish Sea, Mr Bassett said.
He added: “When the UK, on a previous occasion, unilaterally tabled changes to the Withdrawal Agreement last autumn, the EU became more reasonable and agreed to frictionless trade from NI to GB.
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“Hopefully there will be a similar response from Brussels on this occasion but it is a high-risk strategy.”
Mr Bassett warned: “The UK position is somewhat weakened as the majority of Stormont MLAs and Westminster MPs do not support the UK’s move.”
However, he said: “Brussels will hopefully realise that there is no real gain long term from making life difficult for all involved in maintaining the Good Friday Agreement, especially Ireland, by adopting such a pedantic approach.
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“The Irish inability to get the EU to be flexible on the implementation of the NI Protocol is yet another example of the hugely diminished Irish influence on EU policy post-Brexit.”
The controversy over the issue continues to rumble on.
Speaking today, EU Commissioner Mairead McGuinness said Northern Ireland was in a difficult situation as it deals with the consequences of Brexit.
She also urged both Britain and the European Union to reduce tensions and find solutions as equal partners.
Earlier this month, loyalist paramilitary groups told British Prime Minister Boris Johnson they were temporarily withdrawing support for the peace agreement due to concerns over the Brexit deal.
Speaking yesterday, Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis said: “If the unionist community feel that the Protocol is breaching the Good Friday agreement and moving away from the spirit of it, then we’re in quite a dangerous place in terms of stability of not just the executive but the north-south institutions.”
In relation to the loyalist announcement, he added: “I don’t agree with that.
“I think it would be a mistake, but it does underline the sense of tension.
“We have to recognise there is that tension there.”
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