UK calls on Brussels to show common sense and take a pragmatic approach to the NI Protocol

The British government has called on Brussels to show common sense and take a pragmatic approach to the NI Protocol, the BBC reports.

It said it was disappointed that European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen was not fully recognising the effects of the protocol, that is the part of the Brexit deal that puts a trade border in the Irish Sea.

Ms von der Leyen said on Monday that there was no alternative but the "full and correct implementation" of the protocol.

The UK government said its priority was the Good Friday Agreement, while the European Union was focussed on the single market.

Technical talks to simplify the operation of the protocol are ongoing.

The protocol keeps Northern Ireland in the EU single market for goods and means EU customs rules are enforced at its ports - but it is strongly opposed to the protocol among unionists, who see it as separating Northern Ireland from the UK.

It was agreed by the United Kingdom and European Union in October 2019 and was subject to further negotiation and agreement in 2020.

However, in recent weeks the UK government's rhetoric against the protocol has hardened.

Earlier this month the UK's Brexit minister said it was hard to see how the current operation of the protocol was sustainable.

The UK was committed to working with the EU, but there needed to be a "pragmatic, risk-based approach" to challenges over the protocol, said a government spokesman.

"The protocol relies on the support of all communities in Northern Ireland so it is disappointing that there was not more recognition from the commission president of the impact that the current operation of the protocol is having in Northern Ireland," said the spokesman.

"While the EU prioritise protection of the single market and treat the regulatory boundary as if it were like any other external EU border, our focus remains on protecting the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement in all its dimensions."

Speaking in Brussels on Monday night, Mrs Von der Leyen said the protocol was the "only possible solution to ensure peace and stability in Northern Ireland while protecting the integrity of the EU single market".

She added that any problems flowed from Brexit rather than the protocol, but the UK and EU had "a common duty to do whatever we can to reduce tensions in Northern Ireland".

She said the current technical talks were exploring practical solutions to help minimise disruption to everyday life in Northern Ireland.

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