Clement Beaune, French Minister for Europe, urged the British government to be “responsible” for the Northern Ireland protocol. Post-Brexit trade deals have kept the UK’s home country in the EU’s single market and customs union despite the UK’s departure from the bloc.
Speaking to reporters following discussions with his Dutch counterpart, Mr Beaune said: “We cannot accept that there is a political game with such a sensitive issue.
“It is a central element of European stability, you cannot play with it.
“We’ll never play with it. But we cannot allow the protocol to be taken lightly by either party.
Tensions mounted from Unionist politicians and loyalists in Northern Ireland over the post-Brexit trade deals that came into effect in early 2021.
Loyalists staged some of the worst riots in years in April and Prime Minister Arlene Foster announced her resignation.
Northern Ireland is still deeply divided between predominantly Protestant pro-British trade unionists and largely Catholic pro-Irish nationalists.
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Trade unionists believe the protocol threatens Northern Ireland’s status in the UK and the prospect of union with neighboring Ireland.
Cabinet Minister Lord Frost urged a deal to be reached by July 12, when pro-British trade unionists each year commemorate the events of the late 17th century that entrenched Protestant rule over the northern part of the Catholic Ireland.
But Mr Beaune, who had difficult talks with Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney in Dublin earlier this week with French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian, said the British government should not try to advocate for the removal of the protocol.
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“The protocol is the solution to the border problems created by Brexit.”
The new DUP chief Edwin Poots claimed the protocol was “undeliverable” and said he could order officials to stop border checks if the issue is not resolved.
Mr Poots added last night: “We don’t have the staff to do this job.
“What I am saying and saying clearly is that it is not practical and it is not possible.
“We have to go back to the drawing board, and I think there are solutions. “
Responding to Beane’s comments, Whitehall sources told The Express Lord Frost would continue to urge the EU to compromise on the protocol.
An official told the post: “We are taking a hard line on the Protocol, Brussels must listen to us.”