The EU has rejected the UK’s demand to rip up the Northern Ireland Protocol, within three hours of the audacious demand being made in Parliament.
“We will not agree to a renegotiation of the Protocol,” said Maros Sefcovic, the European Commission’s vice president, in an official statement.
The rejection came after a new UK “command paper” insisted the agreement – hailed as “a fantastic deal” by Boris Johnson, in 2019 – must be frozen and radically reworked.
The demands include abandoning full Irish Sea trade checks – due to start in October, when “grace periods” expire – and for Brussels to shelve legal action for non-implementation of existing terms.
The UK also wants the Protocol to “no longer be policed by EU institutions and courts of justice” – the bedrock for ensuring London can be punished for non-compliance, in Eu eyes.
And a so-called “honesty box” approach should allow goods “meeting both UK and EU standards to circulate” in Northern Ireland, Brexit minister David Frost argued.
Checks would only be carried out on goods destined for the Republic of Ireland – a dual-standards regime long rejected by the EU, for fear it will undermine its single market.
In the statement, Mr Sefcovic reiterated that the Protocol was “the joint solution” reached to solve the problems provoked by “the type of Brexit chosen by the British government”.
Pointing to the overarching need to while protect “the integrity” of the single market, he added: ”In order for these objectives to be achieved, the Protocol must be implemented.”
David McAllister, chairman of the European Parliament’s foreign affairs committee, underlined the gulf across the Channel, saying the EU would not allow the agreement to be “undermined”.
“The protocol was painstakingly negotiated under high political pressure, ensuring to minimise disruption and to help local communities and businesses. It cannot be renegotiated,” he said.