No alternative to Northern Ireland Protocol, EU says

Disruptions due to Brexit, not protocol, says von der Leyen

Ursula von der Leyen: ‘There should be no doubt that there is no alternative to the full and correct implementation of the protocol’ File photograph: Thierry Monasse/Bloomberg

Ursula von der Leyen: ‘There should be no doubt that there is no alternative to the full and correct implementation of the protocol’ File photograph: Thierry Monasse/Bloomberg

 

The European Union has brushed off objections to Northern Ireland’s special post-Brexit arrangements and said there was no alternative to reconcile the United Kingdom’s exit from the bloc with the need to avoid a hard Irish border.

Any problems and disruptions are due to Brexit, and not the Protocol, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said.

The 27 national leaders of the EU called for the Brexit deal to be “fully and effectively implemented” in joint conclusions agreed overnight as they gathered in Brussels to discuss issues including Belarus and Covid-19.

“There should be no doubt that there is no alternative to the full and correct implementation of the protocol,” Ms von der Leyen told a press conference after the conclusions were reached.

“It is important to reiterate that the protocol is the only possible solution to ensure peace and stability in Northern Ireland, while protecting the integrity of the European Union single market,” von der Leyen added.

“If we see problems today we should not forget that they do not come from the protocol but result from Brexit, that is the reason why the problems are there.”

In the joint conclusions the EU leaders said they would “continue to be united” in their engagement with the UK, a rejection of perceived attempts by London to raise aspects of its deal with the EU bilaterally with national capitals.

While the relationship with the UK should be as close as possible, the EU leaders agreed that “a non-member of the EU cannot enjoy the same benefits as a member and that the relationship must be based on a balance of rights and obligations at all times.

“Relations with the UK should remain mutually beneficial and can under no circumstances undermine the integrity of the Single Market, the Customs Union or the EU’s decision-making autonomy,” the leaders stated.