An ex-MEP has cautioned that the European Union’s proposed amendments to the Northern Ireland Protocol just “don’t cut it.”
On Wednesday, Brussels proposed steps to reduce the red tape that the arrangements have placed on products travelling from the United Kingdom to Northern Ireland. Ben Habib, a former MEP for the Brexit Party, said the EU’s plans “don’t cut it.”
The elimination of the European Court of Justice’s (ECJ) involvement in monitoring the protocol, according to Mr Habib, should constitute a “red line.”
“They don’t go far enough, they’re not acceptable,” he told Express “We need a red line to get rid of the ECJ.”
Despite UK requests to eliminate the role of European judges, Mr Habib pointed to Brexit minister Lord Frost’s assertion on Wednesday that no “red lines” had been established for negotiations with the EU over the protocol.
He said, “My fear is that the EU has done enough optically to allow the Prime Minister to claim that we really got rid of the vast majority of the problems across the Irish Sea and do a fudge kind of deal and for the real problems to be yet again brushed under the carpet.”
“I hope I’m wrong, I hope we have very intensive negotiations and Lord Frost stays firm in his position.”
“But the fact that Lord Frost wouldn’t make the ECJ removal a red line on Wednesday suggests to me that things aren’t as good as they might be.”
“What we need is for Northern Ireland to be firmly back in the United Kingdom,” Mr Habib said, “and a slight reduction in bureaucracy doesn’t get there.”
Lord Frost travelled in Brussels on Friday for discussions with European Commission vice president Maros Sefcovic on EU plans to minimise trade friction caused by post-Brexit Irish Sea arrangements.
The Brexit minister cautioned that there is still a “big gap” between the EU and the UK.
“So I think the EU has definitely made an effort in pushing beyond where they typically go in these areas and we’re quite encouraged by that,” he added, “but obviously there is still quite a big gap and that’s what we’ve got to work through today and in the future.”
The role of the ECJ in enforcing the protocol, according to Lord Frost, will be discussed with Mr Sefcovic.
“The governance arrangements as we have them don’t work – we need to take the court out of the system as it is now and we need to find a better way forward,” he added.
On Wednesday, the EU announced plans to eliminate 80% of regulatory inspections and streamline customs procedures for the flow of commodities, particularly food and agricultural products, between the United Kingdom and Ireland.
If an acceptable compromise cannot be found, Lord Frost has warned that the UK may seek to suspend sections of the protocol by invoking Article 16.
However, such a step may result in trade retaliation from the EU.