EU leaders ‘are split on how tough to be over Northern Ireland trade dispute with the UK’ amid fears in Brussels the row ‘is being used by Boris Johnson’ to boost his popularity
- EU leaders said to be split on how tough to be over Northern Ireland Protocol
- Emmanuel Macron and Ursula von der Leyen want agreed terms applied in full
- But EU’s Brexit chief Maros Sefcovic apparently wants more flexible approach
EU leaders are split on how tough their stance should be on implementing the Northern Ireland Protocol, it was claimed today.
Hardliners led by French President Emmanuel Macron and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen reportedly want all the trade rules and checks agreed in the Brexit deal to be applied in full.
But Maros Sefcovic, the Vice President of the Commission, is said to be pushing for Brussels to take a more flexible and pragmatic approach.
Meanwhile, there are growing fears in the bloc that the row over the protocol is ‘being used’ by Boris Johnson to boost his domestic popularity.
Hardliners led by French President Emmanuel Macron and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen reportedly want all the trade rules and checks agreed in the Brexit deal to be applied in full while Maros Sefcovic wants a more pragmatic approach
There are growing fears in the bloc that the row over the protocol is ‘being used’ by Boris Johnson to boost his domestic popularity
Mr Macron and Mrs von der Leyen want the protocol to be implemented to the letter, sources told The Times.
Mr Macron has said ‘nothing is negotiable’ on the protocol while the UK has repeatedly called on Brussels to ditch its ‘purist’ approach.
But Mr Sefcovic wants the bloc to move, especially on the issue of access to medicines.
The protocol dictates that Northern Ireland can only access medicines if they have been approved by the EU’s regulator.
That has raised fears that the province could miss out on new life saving drugs approved by the UK but not by Brussels.
Sources told The Times that Mr Sefcovic is winning the argument on that specific issue and a derogation could be offered so the NHS in Northern Ireland can access the drugs.
But the EU is yet to make a formal written offer on the matter as tensions continue to rise.
The protocol was agreed as part of the Brexit divorce deal and it was designed to prevent a land border on the island of Ireland by requiring Irish Sea checks on goods entering Northern Ireland from GB.
Its implementation has caused trade disruption and inflamed community tensions.
Mr Johnson has warned he will suspend elements of the protocol if the two sides cannot agree ways to smooth the checks.
A source in Brussels said ‘there are real tensions’ about how tough the EU should be on the issue.
The diplomatic source told the newspaper: ‘It is being used to help the Conservatives at home. That is bad enough when trust is at a premium. Now Macron is making it worse. There is a real problem.
‘Sefcovic is caught in the middle, between the UK and some in the EU. He wants to be pragmatic and on medicines has made a big offer but the political space is closing up fast.’
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