More than 50 civic, business, union and academic leaders have signed an open letter calling on the UK and EU to work with the Northern Executive and the Irish government to provide “balanced, detailed and reasonable solutions” to Brexit tensions. and the Northern Ireland Protocol.
They warned that support for the peace process in the north “cannot be rhetorical” and said that “rebuilding trust” between the UK and the EU was “essential to dialogue” and “essential to the peace process”.
The letter, published on Sunday, was prepared by the Peacebuilding Cooperative Charitable Foundation in Ireland and the Institute of Irish Studies at the University of Liverpool.
Its signatories include Anne MacGregor, chairperson of the Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Paul Bartholomew, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Ulster, Owen Reddy, Associate General Secretary of the ECTO trade union, and former leader of the Alliance party John Alderdes.
The letter also stressed the need for talks before the end of some Brexit grace periods in October, and encouraged discussion in three areas: Proportionality. Organized and purposeful engagement, including with civil society; Focus on the opportunities offered by the protocol.
Brexit Secretary David Frost on Saturday rejected any solution to the dispute over the protocol based on a more flexible approach to its rules. He told the British-Irish Association in Oxford that negotiations with the EU must address the way the protocol is drafted, not just how it is implemented.
We need to see a fundamental and important change. You’ll need to engage meaningfully with our proposals, and specifically with the three areas that we say need to change – the movement of goods into Northern Ireland, standards for goods within Northern Ireland, and the governance arrangements to regulate this. I want to make it clear that any response that avoids getting seriously involved in those ideas, and aims only to delay the process, will ultimately not work for us.
The EU did not officially respond to a British paper outlining the proposals published in July, but officials held talks during August. Mr. Frost has requested a freeze period during which grace periods delaying implementation of parts of the protocol are extended and the EU halts legal action against Britain for breaches of the agreement.
The European Union has already temporarily suspended its legal proceedings but has yet to announce the extension of the grace periods that will expire at the end of September. Taoiseach Micheál Martin said on Friday that the European Union had demonstrated its ability to respond positively to the concerns of people in Northern Ireland, adding that he believed “reasonable solutions” could be found within the framework of the protocol.
Mr. Frost said his proposals sought to find a new balance in the protocol but were in keeping with the substance of the agreement.
They do not remove it. They retain control of the Irish Sea for certain purposes. They envision that EU laws can still apply, under certain conditions, in Northern Ireland. They recognize that the EU and Ireland have a very legitimate interest in how these arrangements should be implemented. Some would like We have to get rid of all the existing arrangements. “This is not our position,” he said.
Mr. Frost confirmed that the threshold for triggering Article 16, which allows one party to unilaterally suspend parts of the protocol, has been met. But he instead wanted to use Article 13(8) of the agreement, which allows the protocol to be replaced by a new agreement between Britain and the European Union.
You should have no doubts about the centrality of this problem in our politics and in this government. He said that the problem needs to be solved and we are determined to solve it.
Earlier, Northern Ireland Minister Brandon Lewis told the conference that Britain would invest 730 million pounds (852 million euros) in the new Peace Plus program to support economic stability, peace and reconciliation in Northern Ireland. The program is a successor to EU-funded programs that have supported peace, reconciliation and the economy across borders.
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