Before tense talks over Brexit red tape, the UK rejected the EU’s Belfast proposal.
The United Kingdom has turned down Brussels’ request for a permanent EU office in Belfast, the latest in a long line of tensions over Northern Ireland.
Any attempt to renegotiate the UK-EU post-Brexit agreement on Northern Ireland would result in “instability, uncertainty, and unpredictability,” according to the European Commission vice-president. Maros Sefcovic gave a pivotal speech today at Queen’s University in Belfast, in which he stated that the Northern Ireland Protocol must be “fully implemented,” albeit he acknowledged that this would necessitate compromises on all sides. The UK agreed to keep some EU rules in place in Northern Ireland and allow checks on goods arriving from elsewhere in the UK as part of the protocol.
However, Westminster has expressed its displeasure with the arrangement, which creates a trade border in the Irish Sea, claiming that it is ineffective and needs to be modified.
Unionists fear it jeopardizes their position in the United Kingdom and want it repealed.
The Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) in Northern Ireland threatened to leave Stormont this week if the protocol is not amended, but the EU does not appear to be willing to change its mind.
With the EU and the UK at odds over the countries, Ireland and Northern Ireland were a focal point for much of the Brexit argument.
The EU demanded presence in Belfast by opening an office last year, after its branch in the city shuttered when the UK left the EU on January 31, 2020.
The request was dismissed by Westminster because it went beyond the terms of the separation agreement.
Many others were also afraid that it could be the first step toward joint policing of Northern Ireland’s customs border with the rest of the UK.
Throughout the negotiations, the UK pushed to ensure that no checks and controls on goods crossing the Irish Sea would be carried out jointly.
The EU accused the UK of acting in “bad faith” by refusing to allow the bloc to establish a “technical office” in Belfast.
However, Westminster stayed firm in its decision, and the EU withdrew its proposal by July.
“The Commission are no longer lobbying for a representational office in Belfast,” Dr Andrew McCormick, a civil servant in Northern Ireland, told the BBC in July.
“What they are requesting is adequate and proportionate oversight.”
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