Northern Ireland: Neale Richmond tells UK govt to get 'realistic'
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Fine Gael politician Neale Richmond begged the UK government to go back and be honest with the European Union in order to resolve issues at the Northern Irish border. Mr Richmond added if the UK were to act unilaterally and suspend border rules enforced by the Northern Ireland Protocol then there would be “huge legal repercussions” from the EU. It comes as talks between Brexit Minister Lord Frost and EU Commission vice-president Maros Sefcovic failed to make any progress on resolving Irish border issues which have caused havoc for businesses and hauliers alike.
Speaking on BBC News, Mr Richmond said: “I think we have to be quite wary about the practical issues for business on the ground.
“We shouldn’t hide them or over-exaggerate our issues and the vast majority of business leaders have agreed to engage with Mr Sefcovic and the European Commission to get around [the problems].
“But ultimately you have a British government for not providing any certainty to their own business people in Northern Ireland or in Great Britain.
“If the British government miss this deadline and act unilaterally there are very clear legal repercussions from a European point of view.”
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The UK opposes an upcoming ban on chilled meats which sees the EU preventing the import of meats from third countries – something the UK currently is now it has left the bloc.
Northern Ireland remains partially in the EU Customs Union where certain goods are monitored or restricted as per the current trading rules in the EU.
A grace period was introduced to slowly introduce the new system to businesses but the UK has pushed for an extension following complications and issues arising from the agreement.
There are fears the UK will act unilaterally and ignore the rules of the Northern Ireland Protocol if new arrangements do not materialise.
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Mr Richmond continued: “But the longer this continues and the longer the British government representatives feed into the political atmosphere in Northern Ireland.
“Provide ammunition or indeed motivation for certain union politicians to exaggerate the difficulties on the ground – the more concern it brings about.
“And we’re all about protecting a very fragile situation in Northern Ireland.
“The Protocol isn’t the problem, Brexit is the problem.
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“The solutions to the problems caused by Brexit lie within the Protocol and the sooner the British government start implementing them and start being realistic in their aspirations.
“And engaging properly with European counterparts the more the issues will subside and the more the tension is taken out of the atmosphere.”
Lord Frost met with Maros Sefcovic in London on Wednesday and said: “There weren’t any breakthroughs, there aren’t any breakdowns either, and we’re going to carry on talking.
“What we really now need to do is very urgently find some solutions which support the Belfast Good Friday Agreement, support the peace process in Northern Ireland, and allow things to return to normal.
“What the EU is insisting on is we should operate the Protocol in an extremely purist way.”
Lord Frost did not rule out triggering Article 16, the article used by the EU to suspend the Protocol so a hard border could be installed to monitor vaccine exports into the UK from Europe.
The article allows either the EU or UK to unilaterally suspend parts of the Protocol in emergency situations.
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