The UK stood its ground and told the EU it was not willing to “give up our rights” on sovereignty, law and fishing in the latest Brexit development. Neither side can find a solution to the main points of contention — access to UK fishing waters, governance of a future deal and a so-called level-playing field. There are smaller issues too which have caused grievances for both parties, such as the installation of an EU base in Northern Ireland.
This was suggested by Brussels back in May, as Northern Ireland will be in a unique position in the UK.
The Northern Ireland Protocol states it will remain in the customs union and single market but will not be part of the EU or able to contribute to its rules, according to the agreement reached by former Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Prime Minister Boris Johnson last year.
Yet, cabinet minister Michael Gove rejected the idea of a permanent EU base in Belfast in May, claiming there was no need for a “mini embassy” in that part of the UK.
He conceded that there would be ad hoc visits by Brussels officials but no permanent area was needed.
His comments stirred up discontent in the Irish Dáil, when the Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin — now the rotating Taoiseach until 2022 — accused the Government of showing “bad faith”.
According to The Irish Times in May, he said that the decision not to allow an office in Belfast is “both of concern and in my view potentially highly divisive”.
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He concluded: “No one in Northern Ireland appears to object to the idea that there’ll be any European Union office in Belfast.”
Mr Martin’s words followed complaints from the leaders of pro-Remain parties within Northern Ireland, who also accused Wesminster of “bad faith”.
Deputy First Minister and Vice President of Sinn Fein Michelle O’Neill, SDLP leader Colum Eastwood, Alliance Party leader Naomi Long and Green Party leader Clare Bailey wrote a letter to Prime Minister Boris Johnson earlier this year.
According to The Irish News report in April, it read: “You are aware that under the terms negotiated by your Government, EU representatives have a right under law to be present during any activities relating to the protocol implementation.
“It is also for the EU to determine the extent to which it wishes to exercise these rights, including the opening of an office in Belfast staffed by EU representatives who can carry out their functions without interruption by the Westminster Government.”
The letter added that it was “necessary” for liaising with Downing Street, and to oppose the opening of it “represents an act of bad faith by your Government” and “a breach of trust”.