Brexit POLL: Should Boris scrap Brexit deal and renegotiate EU rules?

Michael Gove admits EU talks on Ireland ‘far from resolved’

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Our poll comes as Northern Ireland is facing problems with the post-Brexit trading arrangements.

Tensions have been high between London, Brussels and Belfast since the European Commission threatened to use Article 16 of the Northern Ireland Protocol in an extraordinary row over shortages of coronavirus vaccine supplies.

Cabinet Office Minister Mr Gove on Monday told the Commons European Scrutiny Committee: “It was a moment when trust was eroded, when damage was done and where movement is required in order to ensure that we have an appropriate reset.

“If people put a particular type of integrationist theology ahead of the interests of the people of Northern Ireland they are not serving the cause of peace and progress in Northern Ireland, and that is my principal and overriding concern.

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“Pandora’s Box has been opened and that is concerning. Who knows what Trojan horses will come out.”

Mr Gove added: “There are a number of issues where we believe that we do need refinement of the way in which the protocol operates for it to be effective in the interests of the people of Northern Ireland.”

The Cabinet Office Minister is set to meet the European Commission’s vice president Maros Sefcovic in London on Thursday to discuss the issues affecting Northern Ireland.

Mr Gove admitted the arrangements were “not working at the moment” with the result being “disruptions and difficulties faced by Northern Ireland citizens in their daily lives”.

While progress was being made in talks with the European Commission, he said it “has not been as fast as I would like” and “we are very far from resolving all those problems”.

Mr Gove added that he believed the problems could be sorted without needing to trigger Article 16.

He told MPs: “They can be resolved within the context of the protocol, we don’t need to ditch it in order to resolve those issues, but as the Prime Minister has spelt out, if we can’t make progress in resolving those issues then the UK Government has to reserve its rights.”

The Northern Ireland Protocol was designed to prevent a hard border with Ireland.

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But it has resulted in red tape for goods crossing from Great Britain to Northern Ireland.

Unionists and loyalists insist Northern Ireland’s position in the UK has been undermined by the protocol, which was added to the Withdrawal Agreement to keep Ireland’s land border free-flowing after Brexit.

It forces Northern Ireland to follow the EU’s rules on goods while the rest of the UK does not.

European expert Bettina Schulz warned the bloc paved the way for the UK to demand changes to the protocol after it triggered Article 16 amid the vaccine row. 

Writing for German media outlet Zeit Online, she said: “Johnson probably speculated on being able to soften or overturn the Northern Ireland Protocol retrospectively.

“Because that’s what the British government is currently preparing for with the help of the Unionists.

“A mistake by the EU Commission is helping Great Britain with this.

“The Commission threatened on January 29 to withdraw Article 16 of the Northern Ireland Protocol.

“The article allows the EU and the UK government to suspend parts of the protocol if it threatens trade flows.

“The EU Commission threatened to demand export permits for vaccine deliveries from the EU to Belfast.

“But they weren’t even necessary because Belfast is seen as part of the EU’s single market in the trade in goods.

“EU president Ursula von der Leyen tried to cushion the faux pas.”

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