EU gearing up to retaliate over hated Brexit deal

Brexit 'will take longer to bring big benefits' says Davis

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The EU is gearing up to retaliate over the hated Northern Ireland Protocol but Ursula von der Leyen has said she is “very confident” a solution will be found. However, she said it will only be found if there is political will from the UK Government. Meanwhile, the bloc is planning to enhance its powers to enforce its post-Brexit agreement with Britain through retaliatory tariffs.

The new legislation will allow the EU to revoke free trade arrangements with Britain and impose restrictions on investment or other activities if the UK breaches its side of deals signed with Brussels.

Maros Sefcovic said the measures would allow the EU to, “if needed, to enforce our agreements with the UK”, describing it as “continued unity in action”.

But speaking on arrival in Dublin, ahead of a two-day visit, Ms Von der Leyen said: “We, the European Union has been listening very carefully to the concerns of people and businesses in Northern Ireland.

“We have always shown flexibility, we will always have a constructive approach to these issues.

“If there is the political will in the UK, I am very confident that we can reach a positive conclusion.”

The European Commission President said the EU and Ireland have always been in “very close cooperation” on Brexit matters.

She added: “It was ironclad and is ironclad, and this is so important.

“I know that Brexit meant a lot of adaptation for Ireland, but you have done this very successfully as far as I can see it.”

Ms von der Leyen is set to address the Irish parliament this afternoon after meeting with Taoiseach Micheál Martin in Dublin.

Negotiations are continuing between London and Brussels aimed at securing changes to the protocol to the satisfaction of both sides.

According to a draft copy of the latest EU legislation, new measures would ensure the EU is able to “act in a timely and effective manner to protect its interests in implementing and enforcing both the Withdrawal Agreement and the Trade and Co-operation Agreement”.

This comes amid mounting tensions over the Northern Ireland Protocol.

The UK has been locked in talks with the EU over the Northern Ireland Protocol – which was agreed as part of the withdrawal agreement to avoid a hard border in Ireland post-Brexit – since October 2021.

It allows Northern Ireland to remain within the EU’s single market for goods but it has faced criticism because a border was effectively created between Great Britain and Northern Ireland down the Irish Sea.

The border has led to delays, supermarket shortages and increased costs for businesses in Northern Ireland.

There has been no functioning government in Stormont since the elections last May, as the DUP has refused to restore powersharing unless the Northern Ireland Protocol is scrapped.

An election was triggered in Stormont in October after the executive was blocked from meeting due to the Democratic Unionist Party’s (DUP) protest over the Northern Ireland Protocol.

Earlier this week, a bill extending the deadline for fresh elections to be held in Northern Ireland passed its third reading in the Commons.

The bill – introduced by Northern Ireland Secretary Chris Heaton-Harris last week – is being fast-tracked through Parliament, passing all three stages in one day.

It will extend the deadline for the Northern Ireland Assembly to be formed until December 8, with the possibility of a further six-week extension to 19 January.

There has been no functioning government in Stormont since the elections last May, as the DUP has refused to restore powersharing unless the Northern Ireland Protocol is scrapped.

If the DUP does not end its boycott of the Stormont assembly by 8 December, the bill will give Mr Heaton-Harris the option to either call an election or extend the deadline by six weeks to 19 January.

If nothing changes by then, an election could take place by 13 April.

The new legislation also allows the Northern Ireland Secretary to slash Stormont politicians’ salaries and enables civil servants to have limited decision-making powers to ensure public services can still be delivered.

The bill could see wages cut by 27 percent, or just over £14,000, reducing their incomes from £51,500 to £37,337.

Mr Heaton-Harris said it is “not acceptable” that Members of the Legislative Assembly (MLAs) continue to draw full salaries during a cost-of-living crisis despite not sitting.

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