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UK must respect agreement with EU over Northern Ireland protocol, says France's Europe minister

Newry Street, Belfast by Albert Bridge / Wikimedia Commons

The UK’s plans to alter the trade agreement with the European Union in Northern Ireland have been met with outside criticism. France’s Europe minister Clement Beaune weighed in on the proposal, saying London must respect the agreement.

Beaune weighed in Tuesday on the proposal by the UK regarding trade rules with Northern Ireland, describing the proposal as concerning. Beaune said London must respect the agreement settled with the European Union over Northern Ireland when it left the bloc.

“Everyone should respect their word and their signature. You can’t instrumentalize for whatever reason such serious and important matters,” said Beaune.

The UK published legislation this month that would override some post-Brexit rules in the Northern Ireland protocol. The proposal involved scrapping checks on goods from the rest of the UK that would come into Northern Ireland. The legislation also challenged the European Court of Justice over some parts of the post-Brexit deal.

The bill has yet to be passed by the British parliament.

Irish Prime Minister Micheal Martin also criticized the proposal and urged the British government to resume discussions with the European Union.

“It’s not acceptable, it represents unilateralism of the worst kind,” Martin told the BBC. “We accept fully there are legitimate issues around the operation of the protocol and we believe with serious sustained negotiations between the European Union and the United Kingdom government, those issues should be resolved.”

Martin added that the proposal would harm the economy of Northern Ireland by introducing a dual regulatory scheme that would increase costs for businesses.

Last week, the EU filed two new legal proceedings against the UK following the publishing of the legislation. The proceedings could lead the European Court of Justice to impose fines.

European Commission vice president Maron Sefcovic, who is overseeing the EU’s relations with the UK, said there was no “justification” for London to make a unilateral change to the agreement.

At the time, a spokesperson for UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the UK was disappointed at the move by the bloc. To note, while the new legal proceedings are unrelated to the new proposal by London, the filings are based on the EU’s belief that the UK has failed to implement the protocol on trade with Northern Ireland.

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