James Cleverly outlines his priorities as Foreign Secretary in 2023
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The EU’s latest pact with the UK has been criticised as being “meaningless” as the Northern Ireland Protocol continues to wreak havoc. A major agreement was reached over the EU’s access to UK IT systems, which, according to a joint statement from Maros Sefcovic and James Cleverly, creates a “new basis” for talks on the protocol. The two leaders met in London earlier this week in a “cordial and constructive” meeting.
The two parties agreed “while a range of critical issues needs to be resolved to find a way forward, an agreement was reached today on the way forward regarding the specific question of the EU’s access to UK IT systems.”
But hitting out at the agreement, DUP MP Ian Paisley said the “meaningless” changes are just “tinkering around the edges”, as he demanded “root and branch reform and change to the damaging protocol.”
He told Express.co.uk: “I think it is largely meaningless. This was an obligation under the protocol!
“I fail to see how the UK sharing commercial data one way- with a competitor – is a positive change.
“At best it is neutral. The main focus is not tinkering around the edges but root and branch reform and change to the damaging protocol.
He said there will be “no power-sharing if the protocol stays”, adding that the UK Government “has to determine where its priorities are”.
Tory MPs agreed with Mr Paisley Jr’s assessment, with David Jones saying the new deal does not “form part of a solution”.
He explained that the data-sharing agreements don’t “address the constitutional issues and therefore, frankly, they operate only to make things easier under the current arrangements but don’t form part of a solution.”
However, fellow Tory MP Marco Longhi took a more positive take, describing it is a “step in the right direction”.
When asked if the new deal is a sign of a positive shift in relations between the UK and the EU, the MP said: “I would hope so.”
But he added: “There are significant aspects of the Withdrawal that rely on ‘good faith’, and it has been sadly lacking.
“Trade checks to avoid a border in [Northern Ireland] could easily be made at approved recipient locations and this is done elsewhere – but the EU has refused to implement this causing untold problems in NI.
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“It feels like a step in the right direction so let’s hope there is more positive news to come.”
Speaking in Belfast tonight, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said he is hopeful that the EU and UK Government will come to an agreement on the Northern Ireland Protocol which is broadly acceptable to people in the region.
This comes just one day after Mr Cleverly held talks in Northern Ireland to discuss the hated Brexit deal with business leaders and politicians.
The EU appears to have undergone a shift in approach when it comes to the protocol, with Mr Varadkar last week acknowledging that the Northern Ireland Protocol had “perhaps” been “too strict”, admitting that “mistakes” were made on both sides in the handling of Brexit.
The Irish Taoiseach, who was part of the negotiation process to agree on the Northern Ireland Protocol, said he would be “flexible and reasonable” when attempting to solve issues.
DUP Leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson Mr Varadkar’s comments show he “recognises the political reality” of the situation.
But he told Express.co.uk that Northern Ireland needs to “see a fundamental change of attitude in the negotiations if we are to see an outcome that is durable”.
The Northern Ireland Protocol 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.
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