‘Encourage them more’ Remoaners lay into Rees-Mogg as EU brands Brexit ‘legal obligation’

Northern Ireland Protocol impacting ‘whole UK’ says Wilson

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The former leader of the House of Commons made the comments to a committee of MPs on Wednesday. However, on Friday the EU hit back with a spokesman telling reporters in Brussels that “the withdrawal agreement, the protocol on Ireland and Northern Ireland, are legal obligations to which the UK is bound”.

Mr Rees-Mogg told a hearing of parliament’s EU scrutiny committee that it was “nonsense” that the UK had to stick to the terms of the Northern Ireland Protocol.

He said: “A lot of commentary that says: ‘Well, we signed it and therefore surely we should accept it lock, stock and barrel.’ That’s absolute nonsense.

“We signed it on the basis that it would be reformed. And there comes a point at which you say: ‘Well, you haven’t reformed it and therefore we are reforming it ourselves.’

“And the United Kingdom is much more important than any agreement that we have with any foreign power.”

However, Mr Rees Mogg has been lambasted by remoaners on social media in light of his comments.

One Twitter user, @Rand0mB1tsUK, tweeted: “Nothing will encourage countries to deal with us more than toffs insisting they can renege on existing deals!”

Meanwhile @thephilmorgan1 added: “That implies that one of the other two options in the famous trilemma would take its place:a hard border across the island or rejoin the SM&CU. Otherwise this is just lying propaganda.”

A third Twitter user, @wilsondan, said: “This is just revisionist lying from Rees-Mogg but it’s gaining currency. It’s also a shoddy interference at an election time.”

On Friday morning, the Financial Times reported that Boris Johnson is preparing to bring forward laws to override parts of the Brexit agreement in relation to the Northern Ireland Protocol.

These powers are expected to be included in the Queen’s speech next month which will likely lead to another potential conflict with Brussels.

Unionists have expressed outrage at the protocol as it imposes custom checks on goods travelling from Great Britain to Northern Ireland effectively, creating a trade border in the Irish sea.

This bespoke arrangement was agreed in Brexit negotiations as a way of preventing customs checks between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, which is still a member of the EU. 

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Under the current arrangements goods can travel straight across the border as the EU customs checks effectively occur on arrival in Northern Ireland.

Asked about the reports, a European Commission spokesperson told reporters in Brussels that the Commission was “fully committed” to working with the UK to find a solution “for Northern Ireland”.

They said: “It will come as absolutely no surprise that we have no comment on press reports or unnamed sources, or other comments.

“I think more generally, I can simply reiterate what we have said a number of times in this press room: that we are fully committed to working jointly with the UK Government to find long-lasting solutions for Northern Ireland, to bring about long-lasting certainty and predictability for people and businesses in Northern Ireland.

“Only joint solutions can do that: jointly-agreed solutions. And if you look at it, this approach is working.

“Only a couple of days ago we reached the solution on medicines for Northern Ireland which was agreed in record time. It’s important to underline that.

“As you know, last October, we came forward with a number of serious, wide-ranging solutions for Northern Ireland. We’ve been working on them since and our intention is to continue working on these solutions with the UK over the coming weeks.

“I think finally, it’s important to underline as well that our agreements, the withdrawal agreement, the protocol on Ireland and Northern Ireland, are legal obligations to which the UK is bound as much as we are.”

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