Brexit: Sefcovic outlines reform plans for NI protocol
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However, Jayne Adye, the director of Get Britain Out, has welcomed the European Commissioner’s apparent climbdown – while warning Brexit minister Lord David Frost he cannot afford to give an inch to European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen in the weeks to come. Mr Sefcovic outlined his proposals in Brussels on Wednesday, which include reducing the number of customs checks by 50 percent, and an 80 percent cut on checks and regulations on all retail goods travelling into Northern Ireland.
However, crucially he dismissed calls by Lord Frost to remove the role of the European Court of Justice (ECJ) in adjudicating disputes with respect to the Protocol, a mechanism for preventing a hard border on the Ireland of Ireland which critics say has instead resulted in a border down the Irish Sea.
Ms Adye told Express.co.uk: “The concessions made tonight by Maros Sefcovic are very welcome to Brexiteers.
“However from the start, his comments now make a mockery of the claims made by the EU of the Protocol being set in stone!
“Clearly these could have been possible last time around, but the EU have always wanted to try and establish their control over Northern Ireland.”
The 80 percent reduction in required checks was undoubtedly a good offer from the EU – but as an independent nation – including Northern Ireland – there was no reason why the UK should be forced to conduct any checks on goods moving within its own borders, Ms Adye stressed.
She added: “It was clear from this speech the EU is trying to draw a dividing line within the United Kingdom.
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“Why else would Maros Sefcovic be discussing Northern Ireland losing out on investment if it leaves the Single Market, other than trying to paint the UK Government as an enemy?
“Sowing this kind of division in an already fractious situation like Northern Ireland is simply irresponsible and frankly dangerous.”
With respect to the role of the EU’s top court, located in Luxembourg, Ms Adye said: “Until the European Court of Justice’s control over Northern Ireland is brought to an end, all of this is simply window-dressing.
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“Because no matter how many checks are taking place Northern Ireland would be subject to EU laws and EU justice, despite having no say in the laws which affect them.”
“To claim one cannot have access to the Single Market without jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice is simply nonsense.”
Ms Adye explained: “You may not be able to be a member, but access is entirely different.
“The rest of the UK has ‘access’ to the Single Market, as do countries all over the world, yet there is no ECJ jurisdiction over the United States of America for example.
“Yes, there are challenges specific to the Good Friday Agreement, but this does not mean Northern Ireland should be turned into some form of EU colony!”
Nevertheless, in an endorsement of Lord Frost’s approach, she said: “What this shows is that the hard stance of Lord Frost in the past four months has had a positive effect, and must be continued in this way.
“The EU will only respond to strong action and we must point out the flaws in these proposals and then take this momentum into fresh negotiations – but only after triggering Article 16 of the Northern Ireland Protocol.”
Speaking earlier, Mr Sefcovic said: “We have invested so much effort negotiating the withdrawal agreement.
“In the end, we found the solution which we agreed. We did it because I believe we share the same goals of prosperity, stability and peace on the island of Ireland.”
He added: “I hope that we share the same goal of making sure the businesses and people of Northern Ireland benefits from the dual market.
“You cannot have access to the single market with the jurisdiction of the ECJ.”
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