Start being honest with voters about Northern Ireland’s protocol, EU tells UK | European Union

The EU has warned the UK to “key in the rhetoric” and be “honest” to voters over Northern Ireland’s Brexit protocol following the historic Stormont election that put Sinn Féin at the top of the polls.

As the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) warned it could delay the return of power-sharing until Christmas, EU vice president Maroš Šefčovič said she was also eager to find solutions.

“We need the UK government to tone down the rhetoric, be honest about the deal they signed and agree to find solutions within the framework,” he said in a statement. “The EU has already shown a lot of flexibility by proposing strong, sustainable solutions and we are ready to continue the discussions.”

Ireland’s Taoiseach, Micheál Martin, claimed that the EU’s flexibility “has not been met”, suggesting that its recent threats about unilateral action not to apply some of the controls on goods crossing the Irish Sea,” made the EU more cautious”.

He said he would like to think the UK government would continue to approach the issue with a determination to “solve the matter sensibly”, adding that the Irish government would help facilitate this. “The politics of this are more problematic than solving the actual trade issues surrounding the protocol.”

Sources in Brussels pointed out that talks between Šefčovič and Foreign Minister Liz Truss have paused ahead of the Stormont elections, but said they would restart with renewed intensity.

They indicated there was room for a deal, but the UK had to show the will to get something across the line. The talks are likely to continue for several months.

Boris Johnson and Jacob Rees-Mogg recently alluded to unilateral action to “fix” protocol but have pulled out of the threat of new domestic laws to make some of the protocol inapplicable.

Diplomatic sources at the EU say such unilateral action will be met with retaliatory measures, adding that even in the context of the war in Ukriane they would not be able to “ignore” such a move.

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The British government will “take all measures” to change the Brexit protocol, Justice Secretary Dominic Raab has promised. Northern Ireland secretary Brandon Lewis has ruled out any looming prospect of a referendum on a united Ireland.

After a resounding election victory for Sinn Féin, the DUP has said it will not be able to fill the position of Deputy Prime Minister until Brexit controls on goods entering Northern Ireland from Britain are removed.

Raab told Sky News on Sunday: “At least the results of those elections in Northern Ireland make it clear” [a protocol change] cannot be postponed.”

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