Brexit: Sefcovic outlines reform plans for NI protocol
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Brussels’ Slovakian lead Brexit negotiator, Maros Sefcovic, 55, expressed his concerns over the growing tensions between the UK and EU in the Telegraph. Writing in the Brexit-backing broadsheet, the former Vice President of the EU Commission said: “I am increasingly concerned that the UK Government will refuse to engage with this and embark on a path of confrontation.”
Mr Sefcovic’s comments come just before British negotiators head to Brussels to resume talks over the Northern Ireland Protocol.
The UK is currently calling for the EU to suspend the European Court of Justice’s jurisdiction in Ulster and end disruptions caused by the Protocol.
The EU has already proposed reducing checks on British goods crossing the Irish Sea to Northern Ireland by up to 80 percent.
But the British Government argues the EU’s most recent proposal does not go far enough.
Mr Sefcovic will also meet with his UK counterpart, the 56-year-old Brexit Minister Lord David Frost, on Friday to decide whether progress has been made over Northern Ireland.
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The pair will meet just after Boris Johnson, 57, accused France of breaking the “spirit and letter” of the UK-EU Brexit deal as the cross-Channel cod confrontation intensifies.
France has warned it could introduce a number of barriers against Brexit Britain on Tuesday unless French fishermen are granted greater access to the UK’s coastal waters.
Such barriers are set to include increasing checks on British boats, stopping UK-based vessels from landing at French ports, slowing customs arrangements in Calais, and slapping Jersey with tariffs on energy bills.
However, according to the Telegraph, Mr Johnson used a private meeting with his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron, 43, while at the G20 summit in Rome to warn the French President to “withdraw their threats” or face retaliatory action.
The Prime Minister later told a press conference he thought French actions breached commitments signed between the UK-EU mandating the pair to act in “good faith”.
“I just have to say everybody, I don’t believe that that is compatible either with the spirit or the letter of the Withdrawal Agreement or the Trade Cooperation Agreement,” he said.
Mr Johnson was also said to be “puzzled” after France’s Prime Minister, Jean Castex, 56, suggested the EU should punish the UK for taking back control.
The UK Prime Minister’s comments came after Castex wrote to the President of the EU Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, 63, saying it was “indispensable to show European public opinion that… it causes more damage to leave the EU than stay in”.
France’s Europe Minister Clement Beaune, 40, has since similarly issued a bashful statement against Brexit Britain and accused the UK of making a “political choice” to “target” French fishermen.
However, while Mr Beaune says the UK has withheld 40 percent of “detailed” French requests, Downing Street has rejected his claims.
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“We don’t recognise the numbers issued by France on this,” Number 10 said.
“It is simply factual that we have not only rejected licences from France.
“We will consider any applications by EU member states fairly.”
In a recent set of bids from fishermen in France, the UK rejected 12 out of 47 applications.
Jersey then added further salt to French wounds by refusing licences for 75 of their boats.
However, the British Government says the rejections from Whitehall came as applications did not come with the appropriate supporting information.
The Eurosceptic Environment Secretary George Eustice, 50, also claimed the UK has so far granted 98 percent of all post-Brexit licence bids from European vessels.
A meeting between France, Jersey, the UK and European Commission on Wednesday has already led to an additional 162 French boats being given licences to fish in Channel Island waters from Friday.
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