After Brexit, Northern Ireland, which belongs to the United Kingdom but shares an island with the Republic of Ireland, is divided. A part of the population, the so-called Protestant Unionists, demand that a protocol that distances them from the rest of the country be ended, through a maritime border between Northern Ireland and the rest of the United Kingdom. In an interview with Euronews, the Vice-President of the European Commission, Maros Sefcovic, calls first of all for the mood to relax after a week of tensions between Great Britain and the European Union.
“I think it is very important to lower the tone, relax the rhetoric, because I think we have to create an atmosphere conducive to the application of the protocol, as we did in December. Then we also had very difficult situations, but we managed to resolve all the issues,” he says. Euronews Maros Sefčovič, Vice-President of the European Commission.
No “hard border with Ireland but with the UK
As part of the new relationship between the EU and the UK, Northern Ireland remains in the EU’s single market for goods. This agreement was agreed to ensure that there is no hard border between it and the Republic of Ireland and that citizens and goods can continue to move freely. But now, customs controls are in place in the Irish Sea. This means that all agri-food products entering Northern Ireland from Great Britain must pass customs controls.
“The application of the protocol is a two-way street, and we are willing to do our part. But we also have to see how the United Kingdom fulfills its commitments and talk again about the border crossing, about access to the technologies of the information and all the facilities, as we did with the four simplified export declarations or the simplified health certificate, or the trusted merchants program to make sure that the shelves of the Northern Irish supermarkets are full, so all this I think we agreed on November 17, and I think before we can discuss anything else. ”
Calls to end the protocol intensified after the EU was on the verge of suspending it a few weeks ago over a dispute over the export of vaccines. And the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Boris Johnson, has threatened to do the same. But the EU says the protocol is non-negotiable.
“So I think we already had our experience with the internal market bill, where I think we really show that we are looking for the solutions, that we approach it in a very calm way. But I think we have to be very cautious when it comes to breaching international law, an agreement we just signed. I think our relationship between the EU and the UK is huge. “he points out.
Vice-President Sefčovič claims that the Commission made a mistake a few weeks ago when activating Article 16 and insists that the protocol is the only solution to the problems facing the UK after Brexit.