Warned this would happen! Burley snaps at Kwarteng as UK bids to change Brexit protocol

Kay Burley grills Kwasi Kwarteng on Northern Ireland Protocol

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Sky News presenter Kay Burley grilled Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng for not listening to the warnings of former Prime Ministers that the Northern Ireland Protocol would be a serious issue post-Brexit. The Northern Ireland protocol was part of the Brexit settlement, backed by Boris Johnson, that finally sealed Britain’s divorce from the EU four years after voters backed leaving in a referendum. Businesses in Northern Ireland say it is damaging trade, and some pro-British groups have protested at what they say is a weakening of ties with Britain, raising concerns about a return to the violence which plagued the province for three decades.

Ms Burley said: “Am I not right in saying that at least three previous Prime Ministers warned that this would happen?”

Mr Kwarteng replied: “Nobody could guarantee the effects of the Northern Ireland Protocol until we left the EU.

“I think that what we’ve seen is the EU have been a bit inflexible on the protocol and we want to see if we can make it work more smoothly.”

Ms Burley interjected: “A deal’s a deal, isn’t it? It was signed.”

The Cabinet minister continued: “Nobody thought it was going to last forever, that the Northern Ireland Protocol was going to define Northern Ireland in the UK forevermore.

“It was something that was flexible and we wanted to make it work more smoothly.”

The Sky presenter noted: “Well, the EU has a very different view on that.”

Mr Kwarteng went on to suggest the EU could back down to negotiate the Northern Ireland Protocol.

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He said: “A deal is a deal but it wasn’t something that was going to last forever. Nobody thought the Northern Ireland Protocol was going to define the role of Northern Ireland within the UK forevermore, it was something that was flexible.

“You’ll remember two years ago people said we were never going to get a deal from the EU but we did so. When people say they’re not going to look at the protocol again, I say ‘well, let’s just see’.”

Brexit minister David Frost told parliament on Wednesday: “We cannot go on as we are.”

He said London wanted a new “balance” to eliminate EU oversight of the accord, and that Britain already had the right to unilaterally deviate from parts of it.


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European Commission Vice President Maros Sefcovic was clear that the protocol could not be redrawn, saying Johnson and Frost had negotiated it.

“We will not agree to a renegotiation of the protocol,” he said. “Respecting international legal obligations is of paramount importance.”

The protocol addresses the biggest conundrum of the divorce: how to ensure the delicate peace brought to the province by a U.S.-brokered 1998 peace accord – by maintaining an open border – without opening a back door through neighbouring Ireland to the EU’s single market of 450 million people.

It essentially requires checks on goods between the British mainland and Northern Ireland, which remains part of the EU customs area. These have proved burdensome to companies and an anathema to unionists, who are fiercely supportive of the province remaining part of the United Kingdom.

The Brexit deal was signed and approved by the British parliament in December 2020.

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