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World Irish eye EU compromise soon on N.Ireland Brexit row

08:11  25 june  2021
08:11  25 june  2021 Source:   afp.com

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The Irish government on Thursday signalled a truce is in the works between the European Union and Britain over a post-Brexit "sausage war" heading into a tense period for Northern Ireland.

a group of people standing in front of a store: The Northern Ireland Protocol effectively keeps the territory in the EU's customs union, and mandates port checks on goods such as chilled meats entering from mainland Britain, angering pro-UK unionists. © Paul Faith The Northern Ireland Protocol effectively keeps the territory in the EU's customs union, and mandates port checks on goods such as chilled meats entering from mainland Britain, angering pro-UK unionists.

Foreign Minister Simon Coveney said Dublin was "making the case strongly at an EU level for flexibility and pragmatism" regarding the Brexit treaty's Northern Ireland Protocol, but also "an adherence to what was agreed" by London.

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 Brexit and Northern Ireland. Boris Johnson says he is ready to act unilaterally at the expense of the EU © Via Reuters British Prime Minister Boris Johnson at Parliament. The Prime Minister charged the European Union Wednesday to be too "purist" in reading the post-Brexit agreements concerning the British province of Ireland Island. He is ready to "take the necessary measures".

"I hope this week that we will see progress between both sides on the request from the British government side for a modest extension to the grace period for chilled meats," he said after talks with the UK's Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis.

The Northern Ireland Protocol effectively keeps the territory in the EU's customs union, and mandates port checks on goods such as chilled meats entering from mainland Britain, angering pro-UK unionists.

It was a compromise worked out to try to protect a fragile peace process in Northern Ireland, by avoiding the need for checks on the land border with EU member Ireland after the UK left the EU.

But the UK unilaterally imposed a grace period on the customs checks, triggering legal action by the EU, and has been pressing for an extension beyond June 30.

Northern Ireland. Three weeks after his election, the head of the Party Unionist Edwin Poots resigns

 Northern Ireland. Three weeks after his election, the head of the Party Unionist Edwin Poots resigns © AFP / Paul Faith The head of the Northern Ireland Unionist Party Dup, Edwin Pots, in Dublin, June 3, 2021. Leader From the North Irish Democratic Party (DUP), Edwin Poots, announced Thursday in a statement that he was leaving his position, only three weeks after his entry into office in replacement of Arlene Foster.

London has refused to rule out the nuclear option of suspending the protocol entirely, as Brussels did briefly in January to block EU-bound coronavirus vaccines entering Northern Ireland.

The decision was rapidly overturned after uproar in Dublin.

But both sides have signalled they want to defuse tensions in the run-up to July 12, when pro-UK unionists annually commemorate events in the late 17th century that entrenched Protestant rule over the northern part of Catholic Ireland.


Video: Post-Brexit trade: EU-UK talks on Northern Ireland crisis end without deal (France 24)

- 'Upside down' -

"Obviously we have not had a formal response yet from the EU, so we need to wait to see that formal response," Lewis told reporters alongside Coveney.

"Obviously I'm hopeful that they are being flexible and looking at a pragmatic way forward, that would be a good indication."

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The EU has long insisted that Britain knew full well what it was signing up for with Brexit and Northern Ireland, and has been acting in bad faith.

But in London, Downing Street again pressed Thursday for "radical changes" to the Northern Ireland Protocol.

"That's what's necessary to mitigate the serious, real-world challenges being faced by businesses and the people of Northern Ireland," Prime Minister Boris Johnson's spokesman said.

EU ambassador Joao Vale de Almeida meanwhile said he was "encouraged" that the UK had asked Brussels for an extension to the grace period, rather than imposing one unilaterally as before.

"We are turning our regulations upside down to try and find a solution to this problem," he told a House of Lords committee in the UK parliament.

Vale de Almeida added he was "very unhappy" at UK suggestions that EU leaders had failed to appreciate Northern Ireland's fragility, after three decades of violence leading up to the 1998 Good Friday peace agreement.

"We have an economic, diplomatic and even an emotional and financial commitment to Northern Ireland which is without any doubt," the envoy said.

jit-jts/phz/lth

Ireland's low-tax economy can survive OECD reform: experts .
Far-reaching global tax reforms are reaching fruition and on the face of it, Ireland has most to lose after the small European economy threw open its doors to US multinationals. Research company Oxford Economics predicted the OECD reforms would make Ireland one of Europe's most indebted states, and it also faces disruption from neighbouring Britain's Brexit withdrawal from the EU. But with tax havens such as the Cayman Islands also signing up to the proposals, Ireland knows "the writing is on the wall", said economics professor Lucie Gadenne of Britain's University of Warwick.

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