The EU has rejected calls to renegotiate post-Brexit trading arrangements after the UK asked for major changes to the Northern Ireland protocol.
European Commission vice-president Maros Sefcovic said the bloc was ‘ready to seek creative solutions’ but only within the framework of the existing deal.
Earlier the UK’s Brexit minister Lord Frost said ‘we cannot go on as we are’ because the ‘purist’ way the protocol was being implemented was causing economic and societal damage.
He told the House of Lords there was a ‘growing sense in Northern Ireland we have not found the right balance, seen in an ongoing febrile political climate, protests and regrettable instances of occasional disorder’.
Lord Frost held back from using provisions in the deal which could allow elements of it to be suspended – although he claimed the conditions allowing him to do so had been met.
Instead he called for a ‘standstill’ period which would involve the maintenance of existing grace periods that allow the flow of goods from Great Britain to Northern Ireland.
But he also said there needs to be a ‘significant change’ to the protocol to resolve the current difficulties and ‘we do not shy away from that’.
Lord Frost and Boris Johnson agreed the protocol as part of the Brexit divorce deal in 2019. It effectively keeps Northern Ireland in the European Union’s single market for goods to prevent a hard border with Ireland.
In response, Mr Sefcovic said: ‘We take note of the statement made by Lord Frost today.
‘We will continue to engage with the UK, also on the suggestions made today. We are ready to continue to seek creative solutions, within the framework of the protocol, in the interest of all communities in Northern Ireland. However, we will not agree to a renegotiation of the protocol.
‘Joint action in the joint bodies established by the Withdrawal Agreement will be of paramount importance over the coming months.
‘We must prioritise stability and predictability in Northern Ireland. I look forward to speaking to Lord Frost soon.’
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