Brussels will not reopen negotiations on Northern Ireland Protocol, insists EU ambassador

The European Union’s ambassador to the UK warned that Brussels will not change its mandate and reopen negotiations on the Northern Ireland Protocol.

By PA Reporter
Thursday, 19th May 2022, 3:30 pm

Foreign Secretary Liz Truss has urged the EU to change its mandate so that the protocol can be fundamentally rewritten.

However, ambassador Joao Vale de Almeida told journalists at a Westminster lunch: “We were told that we should get a new mandate but I can tell you very clearly what the member states are telling us is very simple: You don’t need a mandate and even if you ask for one, you will not get it.”

He said there was a lack of trust between the two sides and there was little sign of a “happy ending” in the protocol row.

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An anti-protocol placard at the Port of Larne

“I’m worried by the low levels of trust that exists today between the EU and the UK, between our leaders, between all of us that are involved in this relationship,” he said.

He compared the protocol rows to a long-running drama: “I was hoping to see in this season of this saga … more creativity and hopefully a happy ending. I’m not seeing it for the moment and this is an area where I think things have not changed enough.”

The ambassador said there was “untapped potential” in the proposals Brussels had put forward to resolve the row over Northern Ireland’s post-Brexit arrangements.

He said: “The potential of those proposals is not yet exhausted. There is untapped potential in those proposals for us to find the solution – provided that we are focused on finding the solutions.”

The EU “is committed to contribute to solutions for the problems that we recognise exist in implementing the protocol, but we cannot renegotiate the protocol”.

“The ink of the signatures is hardly dry,” he said. “We negotiated for a long time, there is no real alternative to it.”

The solutions to the issues had to be found “within the limits of the protocol”, he added.

The ambassador said the row over the Northern Ireland Protocol was having an “excessively negative” impact on the overall relationship between Westminster and Brussels.

“My hope is that we can very soon overcome this situation where we are today,” he told reporters in Westminster.

“If I look at the wider picture of our relationship, our problems with the Northern Ireland Protocol have an excessively negative impact on the quality of our overall relationship and we need to overcome this situation.”

Boris Johnson has insisted of his plans for the protocol “we don’t want to nix it, we want to fix it”.

But the ambassador said: “It’s not very reassuring if you go into a negotiation where you are presented with two options – either renegotiation or unilateral action to override the treaty.

“This is not the best way to fix, this is rather a way maybe to nix.

“So if we want to fix it, which is what we want and I understand this is what the Government wants as well, we need to create a better atmosphere.”