EU ‘will not renegotiate’ Northern Ireland protocol as UK demands changes

The European Commission has said the European Union will not agree to a renegotiation of the protocol on Northern Ireland, after Britain requested changes to its post-Brexit arrangements.

A deal to keep North Korea at large with the single market in order to avoid the border with the republic has required some checks between Britain and Northern Ireland, leading to corporate friction and angering some unionists.

Brexit Secretary David Frost told Westminster Parliament “we cannot go on as we are” on Wednesday and released a paper calling for “significant change” including a “hiatus period” to maintain existing grace periods and a freeze on legal action by the Commission.

Senior British government sources have acknowledged that this will require changes to the text of the protocol, which is part of the withdrawal agreement Westminster ratified last year.

Presenting the proposals in Parliament, Lord Frost said the protocol was causing “significant and continuing disruption to life and livelihoods” in Northern Ireland. But he stopped short of suspending parts of the agreement by invoking Article 16, saying now was not the time to do so.

“Instead, we see an opportunity to move forward differently, to find a new path and seek to agree with the EU, through negotiations, a new balance in our arrangements covering Northern Ireland, for the benefit of all,” he said.

These proposals will require a major change to the Northern Ireland protocol, and we are not shy about that. We believe this change is necessary to deal with the situation we are facing now. We look forward to urgently opening a discussion of these proposals.”

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Customs procedures

The leadership paper outlining the proposals calls for the removal of all customs formalities for goods transported from Great Britain to Northern Ireland unless it is expressly destined to cross the border into the EU single market. In the same way, sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) examinations and certifications will apply only to agri-food products that are clearly at risk of entering the EU single market.

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