The UK government must stop finding new red-lines, and start engaging constructively with the EU's bold proposals to reform the Northern Ireland Protocol, writes Stephen Farry. Farry is the MP for North Down and the Deputy Leader of the Alliance Party of Northern Ireland.
The UK government has just been handed a golden opportunity to make things better for Northern Ireland – but will they take it?
On Wednesday evening, the EU published proposals that could reduce up to 80% of all Northern Ireland Protocol customs checks on plant and animal products moving between Great Britain and Northern Ireland.
"We are all looking for the best way forward."
For my constituents and people across Northern Ireland this is good news. The Protocol was only necessary because of the hard Brexit deal this UK government chose. But in reality it has been extremely challenging for everyone, and we are all looking for the best way forward.
Like the European Movement, I and my party Alliance have pushed for a veterinary standards agreement as the best way to eliminate the most onerous checks. Many thousands of you signed the European Movement's petition and wrote to your MP in support – thank you so much for all you have done as a European Movement supporter.
But this is a negotiation, and we have to be pragmatic and able to reach compromises.
So, I really welcome these proposals and desperately hope that the UK government will engage with them to reach a firm solution.
"Now is not the time to set more impossible red-lines, but rather to start rebuilding trust."
I was shocked to hear therefore that the UK government, led by Lord Frost, was picking yet another fight over the role of the European Court of Justice in the Protocol. Not only has the UK government not raised this as a critical issue before, but there are no businesses or consumers clamouring for this to change. It’s a hard Brexit purity test and nothing more.
Now is not the time to set more impossible red-lines, but rather to start rebuilding trust and negotiating real practical solutions.
If you agree that the UK government should stop picking needless fights, please join me in calling for David Frost to work constructively with the EU to produce a stable, durable outcome for Northern Ireland.