EU panic: Dutch officials erupt at ‘Rutte offer’ – accuse Boris of splitting bloc

Brexit: Freeman slams 'aggressive' EU checks on Newsnight

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Senior Dutch diplomatic sources disputed a claim by the Prime Minister, who said his Dutch counterpart Mark Rutte offered to mediate in the EU-UK talks. Mr Johnson said the Dutch PM had offered to help during a meeting in Downing Street last week. But Dutch diplomats said No10 should focus its efforts on working with the European Commission to find a solution to end the threat of chaos in Northern Ireland.

A senior dutch diplomatic source told “The prime minister called on Boris Johnson to be constructive, pragmatic and engage with the Commission.

“Both the UK and EU share the responsibility to make the protocol, as negotiated and ratified on both sides of the Channel, work for the people in Northern Ireland.”

The rant came after Mr Johnson warned that the Brexit standoff over Northern Ireland “cannot go on forever”.

The Prime Minister has already spooked European capitals with a threat to trigger Article 16 of the Brexit deal’s Northern Ireland Protocol.

Such action would suspend parts of the post-Brexit measure to avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland.

To keep the frontier open, Northern Ireland has essentially remained inside the EU’s single market, with a number of checks on goods shipped from the rest of the UK.

This has infuriated Unionists and sparked fears of food shortages and violence in the region.

Speaking on a flight to New York, Mr Johnson said the Protocol was currently being enforced in a “crazy” way and required “common sense solutions” in order to make it workable.

He told reporters: “You all know the issues with Northern Ireland. I hope everybody knows this isn’t something that the UK government is trying to stoke up for our own political purposes. On the contrary, we want to fix this, we want common sense. We want no barriers in the UK for trading in our country and it’s crazy at the moment that we’ve got the protocol being enforced or being used in the way that it is.

“I don’t believe it’s sensible, 20 percent of all checks in the whole of the perimeter of the EU are now done in Northern Ireland. So we do need to sort it out, we need to sort it out fast.

“I talked to Mark Rutte the other night who wanted to come and see if he could mediate on the issue and I said you know we really want to make progress. We seek a solution, but it has to be one that allows the free movement of goods between all parts of our country.

“So to answer your question, the current situation can’t go on forever.”

Brexit minister Lord Frost has argued that the threshold of triggering Article 16 of the protocol, which would effectively tear up parts of the deal he negotiated, has been met.

So far the Government has resisted taking what amounts to a nuclear option, but Mr Johnson was asked if he could make the move in the days after meeting the US president.

The protocol was designed to avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland by effectively keeping Northern Ireland in the EU’s single market for goods.

But the UK wants to rewrite it because of trade barriers it has created for goods crossing the Irish Sea from Britain.

But Brussels has rejected the calls, leading to a sort of stand-off where post-Brexit grace periods on goods have repeatedly been extended in order to prevent further shortages.

Talks are expected to be held between the two sides in the coming weeks. 

The UK has so far rejected plans drawn up “unilaterally” by Brussels to end the deadlock, and is instead calling for a genuine negotiation over the issue.


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