Tensions have rocketed as Brexit negotiations resume for their eighth round of talks between the UK and EU. Chief Brussels Negotiator Michel Barnier warned that there could be no chance of a trade deal following reports that British ministers could override the Withdrawal Agreement on the issue of Northern Ireland. Senior Tory backbencher, Sir John Redwood, railed against the EU official’s threat in the House of Commons, pointing to “two colossally important points” that the bloc must “keep its word on”.
He told MPs: “The EU signed a withdrawal agreement and political declaration with two things at its core.
“One was that they would respect the restoration of UK sovereignty.
“The other was that they would work for a free trade, tariff-free agreement.
“Would my Right Honourable Friend confirm that if the EU kept its words on these two colossally important points, the problems they’ve created in Northern Ireland would disappear?”
Northern Ireland Secretary, Brandon Lewis, agreed: “This is exactly why I think it is important that we are clear about our intentions to ensure that we are delivering for the people of Northern Ireland.
“I am sure that the EU negotiating team will continue and be negotiating in good faith.
“Michel Barnier himself said that peace in Ireland is due thanks to the open border.
“He said this should not and must not lead to the return of a hard border, neither on maps nor in mind.”
The Government’s reported new legislation could change the nature of Northern Ireland customs arrangements.
There are fears that this could lead to a hard Irish border and therefore jeopardise the Good Friday Agreement.
Mr Barnier said that respecting the Irish protocol is vital for peace and future partnership.
Number 10 has said that it is still committed to implementing the Withdrawal Agreement.
Downing Street stressed its commitment to the Brexit divorce deal and the Northern Irish protocol that were designed to avoid the need for a hard border on the island on Ireland and agreed with the EU last year.