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Brussels is furious at the UK for unilaterally delaying the introduction of some Northern Ireland customs checks. Under the terms of Boris Johnson Brexit deal, checks are being introduced on some trade between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK.
This takes place via the Northern Ireland protocol, which keeps the province aligned with the European single market.
However the move has infuriated unionists, contributing to street violence across Northern Ireland, and the Government is now urging Brussels to compromise.
According to Tony Connelly, RTE’s Europe editor, attitudes in the EU are hardening against Britain.
He tweeted: “The EU is growing increasingly pessimistic about the prospects of a breakthrough on how the Northern Ireland Protocol is implemented, with senior officials and diplomats warning that the UK appears determined to undermine it.
“Threats without detail. The EU is a hostile foreign power”
Unionists are furious at Brexit trade restrictions between Northern Ireland and Great Britain
“Senior figures have told RTE News that a meeting of the EU-UK Joint Committee next week will be more a showdown over the UK’s continued sniping against the Protocol, and ongoing unilateral moves to delay its implementation.
“The EU’s co-chair of the Joint Committee Maros Sefcovic has told EU ambassadors that the European Commission is running out of patience and will consider using tougher retaliatory measures unless the UK changes course.”
The news infuriated Matt Kilcoyne, deputy director of the London based Adam Smith Institute think tank.
He reacted: “Threats without detail. The EU is a hostile foreign power.”
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The Northern Ireland protocol is designed to prevent a hard border between the province and the Irish Republic.
However unionists argue it undermines their place within the UK, weakening the 1998 Good Friday Agreement, and are demanding it is scrapped.
Loyalist rioting across Northern Ireland in April was attributed in part to anger over the protocol.
Earlier this year the EU launched legal action against the UK, after Britain unilaterally delayed introducing some checks on food crossing the Irish Sea.
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Lord Frost has argued the protocol is “unsustainable” in its current form
Northern Ireland was rocked by loyalist rioting in April
This week Edwin Poots, the new DUP leader, announced a grace period for pets travelling between Northern Ireland and Great Britain will be extended.
The move, which was made without Brussels consent, has further angered the EU.
Speaking to Mr Connelly one EU diplomat commented: “We can’t let the UK destroy the Protocol with a thousand cuts.
“If they continue on like this, bit by bit, it will wear away, and they will end up with permanent derogations.”
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Earlier this week Brexit minister Lord Frost claimed the Northern Ireland protocol is “unsustainable” in its current form.
He is due to hold a crunch meeting with Mr Sefcovic, representing the European Commission, next week.
Leo Varadkar, the former Irish Taoiseach and current trade minister, has warned Northern Ireland faces a “turbulent few months”.
He added: “I have to emphasise that the only sustainable solutions are joint solutions, not unilateral action that would bring us nowhere.”
Unionists argue the protocol violates the Good Friday Agreement
The next Northern Ireland assembly elections take place on May 5, 2022.
Polling suggests increased support for the hard-line Traditional Unionist Party, which is fiercely opposed to the protocol.
However this could see Sinn Fein returned as the largest single party in Stormont.