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  • Writer's pictureThomas Cole

EU stands firm on Northern Ireland protocol

European Commission pushes for UK to uphold international law

The European Commission has stood firm on its insistence that the Northern Ireland protocol continue to be implemented.

"It is the UK government's responsibility to uphold its legal obligations, taking into account the type of Brexit the UK government chose," European Commission Vice-President Maroš Šefčovič said in a statement after talks with UK Foreign Secretary, Liz Truss, this afternoon.

"It is the UK Government's responsibility to uphold its legal obligations." European Commission Vice-President, Maroš Šefčovič

In a tweet, Ms Truss stated that "we need urgent progress" on discussions on the protocol.

Earlier in the day, European Commission spokesperson, Eric Mamer, had underlined the importance of the UK to uphold its commitments under international law.

UK Government not countering decision to stop protocol checks

Today's talks between the UK and the EU came less than 24 hours after a major intervention on the protocol by Northern Ireland Agriculture Minister, Edwin Poots.

On Wednesday evening he had announced that all goods' checks between Great Britain and Northern Ireland, required under the Northern Ireland protocol, would cease as of midnight last night.

Subsequently, the UK's Northern Ireland Secretary, Brandon Lewis had suggested in an in an interview with ITV's Robert Peston that it was Northern Ireland which had control over checks required in the protocol.

Former Northern Ireland Secretary speaks out against decision

However, a former Northern Ireland Secretary, Julian Smith, underlined that the decision would go against the UK's commitments to uphold international law.

"We cannot be a country that agrees an agreement and then doesn't stand behind it." Julian Smith, Former UK Northern Ireland Secretary.

In the UK Parliament on Thursday afternoon, the Environment Secretary, George Eustice, underlined that the decision by Poots was not operational and checks were ongoing.

Northern Ireland First Minister resigns over Protocol

Also on Thursday, Northern Ireland First Minister Paul Givan, announced that he was resigning his position. Mr Givan is a member of the unionist Democratic Union Party (DUP) which is against the protocol.

In a resignation letter he stated that "the delicate balance" had been "impacted" by the Northern Ireland protocol. The DUP have strongly campaigned against the protocol ever since the UK left the European Union.

Northern Ireland elections in 3 months' time

Under Northern Ireland's power-sharing arrangements, Mr Givan's decision means that the Deputy 1st Minister has to resign, too.

Brandon Lewis has encouraged the DUP to re-instate somebody in the 1st Minister position.

Elections are due to the Northern Ireland assembly in 3 months' time.

The Northern Ireland protocol is a part of the UK's withdrawal agreement from the European Union.

Under the protocol, Northern Ireland is treated differently to the rest of the UK, in order to avoid a land border on the island of Ireland. This means that there are regulatory and customs checks on goods travelling from Great to Northern Ireland.

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