‘Illegal and unrealistic’ EU ambassador issues warning against ‘unilateral action’ on NI

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Joao Vale de Almeida, Union ambassador to the United Kingdom, accused the British Government of behaving in an “illegal and unrealistic” manner over a new Northern Ireland Protocol BIll that will see aspects of the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement compromised. Mr Vale de Almeida said the EU would “pursue goodwill negotiations” but suggested the British Government had offered no “real alternative” and expressed concern negotiations could prove difficult. 

Mr Vale de Almeida said: “We are absolutely committed to finding compromises and to finding a basis for joint solutions. 

“What we are not prepared to do is to accept unilateral action, which is in fact a breach of international law and illegal as such, and which does not provide a real alternative. 

“So, it’s both illegal and unrealistic in attempting to solve this problem. 

“I think the best way forward and the one we will call the Government to pursue is one of goodwill negotiations aiming at a jointly agreed compromise. This is the way we should move forward.”

Ahead of the second reading of the Protocol Bill on Monday, the Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis said the protocol was “getting in the way” of the Northern Ireland Executive returning.

He said: “The problem with the protocol is the way the EU wants to see it implemented.

“Ultimately, I want to see the re-establishment of the Northern Ireland Assembly and the Executive, and the protocol is getting in the way of that. 

That’s why it is breaching the Belfast Good Friday Agreement. We’ve got to resolve that, that’s what this legislation will do.”

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He said later that the Good Friday Agreement is “either under pressure or not functioning”.

“What we’re talking about is fixing here some of the issues in terms of the implementation of the protocol that is so detrimentally affecting Northern Ireland, both GB businesses who can’t supply Northern Ireland, people across Northern Ireland who can’t get access to goods, the Jewish community can’t technically practise their religion.

“And we have seen Stormont collapse. That means the Belfast Good Friday Agreement in all three strands is either under pressure or not functioning at the moment.

“As the UK Government, we have an absolute duty to protect and deliver on the Belfast Good Friday Agreement and that’s what we will be doing in this Bill by fixing some of those issues within the Protocol that are causing so many problems for so many people.”

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