EU chief tells Johnson ‘we won’t renegotiate’ on Northern Ireland

European Union President Ursula von der Leyen rejected Boris Johnson’s plea to renegotiate a post-Brexit deal on Northern Ireland after a phone call with the prime minister.

The European Commission chief said on Thursday that Brussels would «be creative and flexible» on the Northern Ireland protocol «but we will not renegotiate».

Her dismissal came even though Mr Johnson argued there was a «tremendous opportunity to find reasonable and practical solutions to the difficulties» facing Northern Ireland.

Mr Johnson also extended his diplomatic efforts to German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who urged her to join the European Union «to engage collectively in a constructive and detailed discussion on the UK’s proposals».

The calls came after Brexit Secretary Lord Frost demanded significant changes be made to the terms of the deal he negotiated as he said «we cannot move forward as we are».

Von der Leyen said Johnson «called for proposals» to resolve post-Brexit trade issues between Northern Ireland and Great Britain on Thursday morning.

The EU will continue to be innovative and flexible under the Protocol.

«But we will not renegotiate,» she wrote on Twitter.

«We must jointly ensure stability and predictability in Northern Ireland.»

Downing Street said Mr Johnson «made it clear that the way the protocol currently operates is not sustainable» during the call.

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«No solutions can be found through the protocol’s existing mechanisms,» said statement No. 10.

That is why we have made proposals to make major changes to it.

He urged the European Union to seriously consider these proposals and to work with the United Kingdom on them.

«There is a great opportunity to find reasonable and practical solutions to the difficulties facing individuals and businesses in Northern Ireland, and thus put the relationship between the UK and the EU on a better foundation.»

In the afternoon, Downing Street said it called Merkel to warn that the protocol «failed to achieve» goals to reduce disruption and preserve the peace agreement.

«The UK Prime Minister has emphasized that no solutions can be found through the protocol’s existing mechanisms and that is why we have made proposals to make significant changes to it,» a statement said.

He urged the chancellor and the EU collectively to engage in a constructive and detailed discussion of the UK’s proposals.

Earlier today, British Business Secretary Kwasi Quarting said the protocol, which effectively keeps Northern Ireland in the EU’s single market for goods, was never «something that will go on forever».

Business Minister Kwasi Kwarting leaves after a cabinet meeting at 10 Downing Street, London (Victoria Jones/PA)

«The deal is a deal, but it wasn’t something that was going to last forever,» he told Sky News.

“No one thought the Northern Ireland Protocol would forever define Northern Ireland’s role within the UK, it was a flexible thing.

«You’ll remember two years ago, people said we’d never get a deal from the EU, but we did.

«When people say they’re never going to look at the protocol again, I say ‘OK, let’s just see.'»

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The protocol was put in place to ensure there was no hard border with Ireland, but instead effectively placed a trade barrier in the Irish Sea.

However, Lord Frost said the economic and social damage from the arrangements would have justified the use of Article 16, effectively tearing parts of the deal apart.

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