The European Union continues to be inflexible over renegotiating the Northern Ireland part of the Brexit divorce agreement and Brussels has been warned that it “was not a deal that would last for ever.”
That shot across the bows was delivered by Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng on his round of interviews this morning. He said:
“A deal is a deal but it wasn’t something that was going to last forever, it was something that was flexible and we want to make it work more smoothly.”
“Article 16, it is something that we could do, to suspend it, we’ve chosen not to do that, that’s not our opening position and we want to be able to negotiate and have a conversation with the EU about how best to go forward.”
Yesterday, Britain demanded that, just a year after it was agreed, the EU should agree to rewrite the Northern Ireland protocol which covers post-Brexit trade involving the province. The EU immediately rejected that call, saying Britain needed to respect its international obligations and pointed out it had been negotiated personally by Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
The protocol addresses the biggest conundrum of the divorce, how exactly it would guarantee the fragile state of peace (brought to the province by the 1998 peace accord) by maintaining an open border – without opening a back door through neighbouring Ireland to the EU’s single market of 450 million people.
Businesses in Northern Ireland say the lack of certainty of the protocol is damaging trade, and some pro-British groups have protested at what they say is a weakening of ties with Britain, which in turn has raised fears of a return to the violence which plagued the province for decades.