Von Der Leyen stands firm – Warns hated Brexit Protocol ‘only solution’
Brexit: 'Trouble' in Northern Ireland 'pleasing' EU says expert
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The European Commission President insisted it is the “only solution”, to the issues Brexit raised for Ireland. Under its terms Northern Ireland remains tied to the European single market, resulting in some customs checks on trade with Great Britain.
This has infuriated unionists, who argue it undermines their place within the union.
Boris Johnson has threatened to scrap the agreement unless the EU shows more flexibility.
Speaking in Dublin, following a meeting with Irish premier Micheal Martin, Ms von der Leyen reiterated her support for the Protocol.
She said: “The Protocol is the solution to the impact of Brexit on Northern Ireland.
“It is the only solution we have found with the UK after discussing that over years.
“It is the only solution to protect peace and stability on the island of Ireland and to protect the integrity of the single market.
“We are convinced that to achieve these objectives the Protocol needs to be implemented.”
The Protocol was introduced as part of the Brexit deal agreed by Mr Johnson in December.
This restored Britain’s status as a fully independent trading power and ended free movement of labour.
However, it resulted in new barriers to trade between Northern Ireland, and other parts of the UK.
In April Northern Ireland was rocked by loyalist rioting, blamed in part on anger over the Protocol.
The EU did agree to delay checks on fresh meat for three months, following the so-called ‘sausage wars’.
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This prevented them from taking effect during the traditional loyalist marching season.
However, they are still due to come into effect in the autumn.
Ms von der Leyen said this proves the EU is being flexible.
She said: “We have shown, as the European Commission, huge flexibility and creativity and pragmatism over the last years and also over the last weeks.
“If I remind you of the grace periods and extensions, for example.
“I cannot imagine that our British friends will not show the same flexibility and the same pragmatism because we all share the same purpose that we want to have peace and stability on the island of Ireland.”
The Protocol was created to avoid border checks between Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic, which could have undermined the 1998 Good Friday Agreement.
This ended nearly three decades of conflict in Northern Ireland, involving the IRA, loyalist paramilitaries and the British state.
Ms von der Leyen was in Dublin to approve the Irish government’s spending plans, for EU COVID-19 recovery funds.
She tweeted: “Green light for Ireland’s recovery and resilience plan!”
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