Fine Gael accuses Britain of ‘slightly tiring’ routine on post-Brexit arrangements

Neale Richmond says NI protocol ‘isn’t going anywhere’ despite British efforts to ‘trash’ it

Britain’s  David Frost was singled out by Fine Gael’s Neale Richmond on Sunday as the latter criticised Britain’s ‘slightly tiring’  routine on post-Brexit arrangements. File photograph: Daniel Leal-Olivas/AFP via Getty Images

Britain’s David Frost was singled out by Fine Gael’s Neale Richmond on Sunday as the latter criticised Britain’s ‘slightly tiring’ routine on post-Brexit arrangements. File photograph: Daniel Leal-Olivas/AFP via Getty Images

 

Fine Gael has accused Britain of a “slightly tiring” routine of regularly coming out to “trash” post-Brexit arrangements it agreed with Europe.

The party’s European affairs spokesman Neale Richmond made the comments on Sunday as he insisted the Northern Ireland protocol “isn’t going anywhere”.

“It is a slightly tiring routine we are going through, inadvertently, every couple of weeks,” he told the BBC’s Sunday Politics.

“A British government minister, usually Lord [David] Frost, will go out and trash the [Northern Ireland] protocol he negotiated, be it on social media or in a newspaper, building up to a head.

“Then we move on to the next part of the roundabout that we are on.”

Mr Richmond said threats from Britain in relation to the protocol are “being taken seriously” by the European Commission but that they didn’t provide any solution to issues linked to the protocol, which is part of the EU-UK Brexit withdrawal agreement and provides for a special post-Brexit trading status for Northern Ireland.

“But I think there are solutions within the protocol,” Mr Richmond added.

Mr Richmond pointed to European Commission vice-president Maros Sefcovic’s and Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney’s recent visits to the North as “measures being taken” to work with “not just the political leaders but more importantly community and business leaders about the practical issues that are at hand.

“We acknowledge that they are there in relation to agri-food products, in relation to veterinary products, in relation to medicines . . . there are absolutely solutions and a will to find solutions within the protocol.”

“We have already seen a derogation in relation to cancer drugs,” he added.

“I would hope that people would look at these reasonably, but the protocol isn’t going anywhere.

“It provides the pathway to ensure that Northern Ireland doesn’t suffer the sort of Brexit impacts that we are seeing devastating England this weekend, be it fuel or food shortages.”

‘Not helpful’

Fine Gael EU commissioner Mairead McGuinness also warned Britain on Sunday that threats about triggering a safeguard clause in the protocol were “not helpful” and Britain should instead pursue solutions.

“I don’t think that that is the first approach; we should try and find solutions. I think threats are not helpful and I think article 16 is used in very extreme circumstances,” the EU financial services commissioner told the BBC’s The Andrew Marr Show.

Article 16 of the Northern Ireland protocol details so-called safeguard measures that allow either the UK or EU to take unilateral action if there is an unexpected negative effect arising from the agreement. Additional reporting: – Reuters