Brandon Lewis says EU is ‘not showing flexibility’ over protocol
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Speaking exclusively to Express.co.uk, Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis has expressed his deep “disappointment” in the eurocrats in Brussels over their “lack of flexibility” arguing they are only interested in talking not agreeing on ending the Protocol crisis. He insisted that the UK Government had been left with no choice but to act unilaterally because the EU’s only solution was “to make the situation worse.”
Speaking ahead of introducing the historic Northern Ireland legacy bill tomorrow, he said: “I find it strange that the EU keep saying they have shown flexibility when you find what they say is that they will flex from a fully implemented protocol which is quite disingenuous because we don’t have a fully implemented protocol.
“What they are proposing would actually take us backwards from where we are today and that is just not fair on the businesses and people of Northern Ireland.
“Fundamentally the way the EU has sought to implement the EU I would argue actually breaches the core purpose of the protocol.
“This is a document which was supposed to protect the Good Friday Agreement but it is now the document that is putting it at risk.”
Brandon Lewis is disappointed with the EU inflexbility (Image: EXPRESS)
Mr Lewis will be partly responsible in taking a Bill through Parliament to help fix the Protocol and allow people in Northern Ireland to be full British citizens again.
He is also heading up the talks with the Northern Ireland parties to form a new executive after Sinn Fein emerged as the biggest party in this month’s elections.
But without a resolution on the Protocol the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) will veto the whole process.
But he is clear that the blame lies with Brussels and the Commission headed up by Ursula von der Leyen.
He said: “We want to get a resolution with the EU, we would like to get certainty.
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Express.co.uk political editor interviewed Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis (Image: EXPRESS)
“There is a point where the EU aren’t going to show flexibility when the UK Government has to make a decision about how to rectify these problems for UK citizens in a part of the UK.
“Over the last couple of weeks particularly after they said they are not going to show flexibility now, the Foreign Secretary [Liz Truss] rightly made the point that these negotiations aren’t progressing so it is right we resolve this.”
He insisted that the bill announced by Ms Truss last week is not just a threat and will be taken through Parlament but added that it is a “twin track approach” with talks if the EU wants to engage.
“We are open to engage with the EU but we have to do what is right for the citizens of the UK.”
Friends of Mr Lewis recently revealed that having been a remainer in the 2016 referendum his experience of the EU has put him on the pro-Brexit side of the argument.
And he admitted that he has been shocked by the EU’s intransigence.
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EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen is only talking not agreeing (Image: GETTY)
He said: “I have been disappointed by the lack of flexibility for the last 12 months.
“Even when we took the grace period extension last year [for food and other essential supplies] they didn’t disagree with the principle of what we were doing, they just complained that we hadn’t done it by agreement.
“To do something by agreement the other side eventually has to agree and stop just talking.
“Particularly where you are talking about chilled meats where if you don’t take action you end up with empty shelves which is where we were last year.”
He also accused the EU of not following the Protocol agreement itself and taking a very one sided view of it.
Mr Lewis pointed out that the deal was meant to respect the daily lives of communities, all aspects of the Good Friday Agreement, the UK internal market and state functions and the EU single market.
“The only thing of the five things the document says would be respected that it works for is the EU Single Market,” he said.
“We have got to make sure the other four match up to that.”