Britain and the European Union need to reset their relationship after trust was eroded by a row over vaccine supplies, British minister Michael Gove said on Monday, calling for a refinement of a deal covering post-Brexit trade in Northern Ireland. Since Britain completed its journey out of the EU’s orbit at the beginning of this year, trade between Northern Ireland and the rest of the United Kingdom has become a flashpoint for ties with the bloc.
Ties are strained, not only by years of bruising Brexit negotiations, but after the EU announced its plans for export controls on vaccines and threatened to use emergency measures that could create a hard border between the British province of Northern Ireland and EU member Ireland. The EU swiftly changed position, but London hopes to capitalise on the gaffe, which united British politicians in their criticism, by trying to gain changes to the part of the Brexit divorce deal which covers trade with Northern Ireland.
“It was a moment when trust was eroded, when damage was done and where movement is required in order to ensure that we have an appropriate reset,” Gove, in charge of implementing the divorce agreement with the EU, told a parliamentary committee. “There are number of issues… where we believe that we do need refinement of the way in which the protocol operates for it to be effective in the interests of the people of Northern Ireland.”
Some Northern Irish politicians have complained that new rules have caused shortages in supermarkets and have impeded the delivery of other goods, and have called for the so-called Northern Ireland Protocol be scrapped. But the EU and Britain have agreed to “work intensively” to resolve the difficulties, and Gove is expected to meet European Commission Vice President Maros Sefcovic this week to try to find a way forward.
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