EU branded ‘a protectionist racket’ amid Brexit border row –‘Doesn’t have a better nature’

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After the UK left the EU at the end of last year, a regulatory border between Northern Ireland and Great Britain was introduced. In order to give time to adapt to the changes, certain trade passing between the UK and Northern Ireland has been given a “grace period”.

During this transition, not all rules are enforced on some items such as food.

Tim Stanley, journalist and historian, accused the EU of caring more about the “integrity” of its market over free trade.

Writing in The Telegraph, he said: “The EU has always been a protectionist racket: it cares more about preserving the ‘integrity’ of its market than genuine free trade.”

Last month, Brussels threatened to control coronavirus vaccine exports to Northern Ireland.

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The EU had initially invoked Article 16 of the Northern Ireland Protocol.

The move would have stopped the unhindered supply of coronavirus jabs from the bloc into the UK.

The EU’s intentions were to prevent Northern Ireland from being used as a back door to move vaccines from mainland Europe to Britain.

But Brussels backtracked on their attempts to trigger Article 16 of the Protocol after a huge backlash from both the EU and UK sides.

Unionists in Ireland have also been keen to trigger Article 16 “to restore the integrity of the UK market”, according to Mr Stanley.

He added: “Article 16 was intended only to be used in emergencies.

“That it has been discussed twice within a month of Brexit suggests that the Protocol does not work.”

Full border controls are expected to be phased in during April and July.

At the weekend, the Irish Government said it was open to extend the grace period of the Northern Ireland Protocol in an attempt to resolve the row over customs checks at the border.

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Mr Stanley added: “The Government is also pushing for an extension of trade grace periods, including for supermarkets, and one wonders if this could be linked – rhetorically – to the UK sharing vaccines, not as extortion but because Covid has shown the benefits of cooperation.

“The EU probably doesn’t have a better nature, but there’s no harm in appealing to it.”

Last week, the DUP leader Arlene Foster demanded that the Protocol be ditched.

She claimed the Brexit provisions have “not worked and cannot work”.

Ms Foster warned Prime Minister Boris Johnson that the “delicate” peace settlement in Northern Ireland was being hampered.

Writing in The Telegraph, Ms Foster said Mr Johnson “must back up” his words to protect the UK internal market.

She added: “The Northern Ireland Protocol has not worked, cannot work and in light of our proposals to the Government, needs to be replaced.

“Indeed, across Northern Ireland there is growing anger at the current arrangements.

“The delicate political balance and relationships in Northern Ireland have been damaged and disturbed by the Protocol.”

Last week, Mr Johnson threatened to axe parts of the Brexit agreement unless Brussels agrees to ease checks on goods crossing from the UK.

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