But the European Commission immediately poured cold water on the plea on Wednesday, saying Britain must live up to its international obligations. The EU has long insisted that it was up to London to implement what it agreed to during their protracted Brexit divorce.
London had not suspended the so-called Northern Ireland Protocol, which requires checks on goods passing through mainland Britain.
But Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis told Parliament on Wednesday that while the UK had negotiated the protocol “in good faith”, its real-world application by the EU had resulted in “considerable burdens and continues ”.
“Simply put, we cannot continue as we are,” he said.
Rather than ad hoc grace periods for border controls, Lewis said the UK was seeking a “standstill period” for the protocol, including legal action from the EU.
He insisted on a new dialogue “which deals with the problems of the round”.
“We urge the EU to look at it with a fresh eye and work with us to seize this opportunity and put our relations on a better footing. “
The protocol was painstakingly negotiated to avoid a hard border with Ireland, effectively keeping Northern Ireland in the EU’s single market.
European Commission Vice-President Maros Sefcovic said on Wednesday the bloc would seek ‘creative solutions’ to trade difficulties between Britain and Northern Ireland caused by Brexit, but would not renegotiate the deal on Brexit with Northern Ireland.
“We are ready to continue to seek creative solutions, under the Protocol, for the benefit of all communities in Northern Ireland. However, we will not accept a renegotiation of the protocol, ”he said.
Northern Ireland, which suffered thirty years of sectarian conflict until a peace deal in 1998, has been rocked by unrest this year, partly against the protocol.
Many pro-British trade unionists see it as creating a de facto border in the Irish Sea with mainland Britain and say they feel betrayed.
In its proposals, Britain urged the EU to end extensive controls and to focus more on goods “actually” at risk of entering its single market via Northern Ireland.
The government insisted that for all other products a slight touch was needed to preserve Northern Ireland’s full status as part of the UK.
He also wants the elimination of any supervisory role of the European Court of Justice.
Frustrated by the new bureaucracy since the UK left the EU completely at the start of this year, several UK companies have already suspended sales in Northern Ireland or are offering reduced choice.
“Gaps on the shelves”
Retail chain Marks and Spencer has said that under the protocol’s current form, there will be “empty shelves” in Northern Ireland this Christmas.
In a phone call on Tuesday, Prime Minister Boris Johnson told his Irish counterpart Micheal Martin that the protocol “is causing significant disruption” and that changes are essential, according to Downing Street.
But the EU, seeking to preserve the integrity of its single market, says Britain has acted in bad faith, knowing full well what it is committed to.
There was no immediate comment from Brussels, but European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen last week denied that the EU was dogmatic in its application of the protocol.
Irish Minister for European Affairs Thomas Byrne said Dublin would “listen carefully to what the British government has to say”, but insisted that any recourse must respect the hard-fought pact.
“We are ready to discuss any creative solution within the limits of the protocol,” he told BBC radio.
“But we also have to recognize that Britain has decided itself to leave the European Union’s single market, to apply trade rules, to apply red tape to its goods leaving Britain, to goods entering Great Britain. “
The protracted disputes over the protocol are of further concern to the US administration of President Joe Biden.
State Department spokesman Ned Price told reporters the administration wanted the two sides to “negotiate under existing mechanisms when disputes arise.”
John Kerry, Biden’s climate envoy and former secretary of state, told BBC radio that the Irish-American president was “deeply immersed in the matter”.
He and Secretary of State Antony Blinken are “deeply committed to ensuring that the (Good Friday) agreement is honored and ultimately there is peace,” Kerry said.