Show us your true colours, Boris! Merkel ally orders Johnson revoke to Brexit red lines

BBC Breakfast: Fallout from Brexit Minister Lord Frost's speech

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It comes as Maros Šefčovič, Vice-President of the European Commission, on Wednesday presented the EU’s proposals — “a different model” — on the application of the Northern Ireland Protocol. The new plan reduces post-Brexit checks on goods and medicines entering Northern Ireland from the rest of the UK.

The special Brexit deal for Northern Ireland keeps it in the EU’s single market for goods, allowing free-flowing trade with the EU.

The EU said it would remove about 80 percent of spot checks and customs paperwork would be reduced by 50 percent.

Goods arriving from Britain, however, face checks and controls.

The UK government is studying the detail of the proposals, which seek to calm the debate over a fundamental part of the Brexit agreement.

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German MP Katja Leikert, who serves as deputy chairwoman of the CDU, said: “With its proposals, the EU Commission has once again demonstrated its willingness to take responsibility.

“It shows practicable ways in which the Northern Ireland Protocol can be implemented – for smooth freight traffic, for the chance of growing prosperity through trade, but above all for peace on the island of Ireland.”

The German MP seems to be aligned with Ireland’s Foreign Minister Simon Coveney, who has said it is now time for Lord Frost and UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson to work closely with Brussels to sort out solutions to the outstanding problems concerning the Northern Ireland Protocol.

Part of the 2020 Withdrawal Agreement states the European Court of Justice (ECJ) is the final arbiter of the deal in case of future trade disputes between the UK and EU in regards to the Protocol. But Lord Frost sees “a deep imbalance in the way the protocol operates” and wants to replace this provision with an independent arbiter.

To this, Mr Šefčovič said no. “It’s very clear that we cannot have access to the single market without the supervision of the ECJ.

“But I think that we should really put aside this business of the red lines, the business of deadlines, real or artificial, and we should really focus on what we hear from the stakeholders and the people in Northern Ireland.

“They want us to solve the practical issues.”

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Taoiseach Micheál Martin, Ireland’s prime minister and head of government, thinks the European Commission has “demonstrated that they are really open and willing to bring a resolution to this” and urges the UK government to consider the EU’s proposals.

He said: “There’s a real responsibility on all parties, including the United Kingdom Government, to engage responsibly and seriously with this package.”

Ahead of Wednesday’s proposals, Lord Frost warned he wanted the EU and UK to “get back to normal” by getting rid of “the poison” from their relationship and hinted at putting together a new arrangement.

“We have a short, but real, opportunity,” he claimed.

Ms Leikert said the EU’s proposals gained the negotiations “new momentum” and advised the UK to avoid demanding further renegotiations. “Such a renegotiation would hardly be politically possible and would make the political situation in Northern Ireland even more fragile.”

The German MP also had some words for Mr Johnson, who she said should “instruct his chief negotiator, Lord Frost, to negotiate”.

She continued: “Even more, he should not publicly proclaim red lines.

“The British-European friendship and the hard-won peace on the Irish island are too important for that.”

Lord Frost has previously said the UK cannot accept the role of European judges. However, he told peers on Wednesday he never used the term “red lines” in his negotiations – a sign that he might be willing to compromise.

Suggesting it is ultimately Mr Johnson’s responsibility to get things moving in the right direction — one of resolution —, Ms Leikert added: “Prime Minister Johnson now has to show his colours.”

Additional reporting by Monika Pallenberg

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