The EU has pleaded to talk seriously to Prime Minister Boris Johnson after MEPs in Brussels reportedly refused to ratify the trade deal, as tensions continue to increase over post-Brexit trade arrangements for Northern Ireland.
The UK and the EU wrapped up the Trade and Co-operation Agreement (TCA) on Christmas Eve after almost one year of serious negotiations, which outlined the trading arrangements that became effective from January 1.
MEPs on the European Parliament’s trade and foreign affairs committees endorsed the deal on Thursday, thereby increasing hope that there could be a possible improvement in already strained relations between both sides over Northern Ireland.
Though the TCA has still not been formally ratified after weeks of delay, with group leaders in the European Parliament refusing to state clearly when the final vote will take place. Meanwhile, the provisional application will expire at the end of April, and the UK has repeatedly warned it expects the EU to complete its ratification process before then.
This latest move follows hours before Brexit minister Lord Frost held talks with European Commission vice-president Maros Sefcovic in the Belgian capital over issues around the Northern Ireland Protocol and the country’s post-Brexit trade arrangements.
The protocol is meant to prevent a hard border with Ireland and after Brexit has seen the North remain part of the single market for goods, which has resulted in products coming from Britain being subjected to EU import rules.
London has already infuriated Brussels by unilaterally deciding to extend grace periods to help retailers in Northern Ireland struggling with supplies, meaning the checks meant to be in place after Brexit are not yet in place.
“We need to talk seriously about how the protocol is being managed, how it can be implemented in a way that listens to the concerns many in Northern Ireland have and what flexibilities are possible,” Ireland’s foreign minister told the Irish broadcaster RTE.
Andreas Schieder, who led the European Parliament foreign affairs committee’s work on the UK-EU trade deal, warned that “Brexit is a historic mistake, but now we need to establish a strong fundament for future relations.”
“all progress could be lost, if the UK continues to unilaterally breach the Withdrawal Agreement and the Protocol on Northern Ireland,” he added.