Brexit: EU chief tells Boris Johnson ‘we will not renegotiate’ over Northern Ireland

Prime Minister Boris Johnson with President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen during the Leaders official welcome and family photo, during the G7 summit in Cornwall. Picture date: Friday June 11, 2021.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson with President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen during the Leaders official welcome and family photo, during the G7 summit in Cornwall. Picture date: Friday June 11, 2021.

The European Commission president said on Thursday that Brussels will 'be creative and flexible' over the Northern Ireland Protocol 'but we will not renegotiate'

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EU chief Ursula von der Leyen has rejected Boris Johnson’s plea to renegotiate the post-Brexit deal on Northern Ireland after a phone call with the Prime Minister.

The European Commission president said on Thursday that Brussels will “be creative and flexible” over the Northern Ireland Protocol “but we will not renegotiate”.

She tweeted:

Her message came a day after Brexit minister Lord Frost demanded that significant changes are made to the terms of the deal he negotiated saying “we cannot go on as we are”.

But he held back from immediately suspending parts of the deal, despite claiming the UK would be justified to take the dramatic step.

Boris Johnson spoke to the European Commission president on Thursday morning about the UK’s command paper on the Northern Ireland Protocol.

Downing Street said the Prime Minister told Ms von der Leyen that the protocol is “currently operationally unsustainable” and urged the European Union to engage with solutions put forward by the UK.

Asked about Ms von der Leyen stating she would not renegotiate, a spokesman for the Prime Minister said the Government continued to want to be “constructive and collaborative” in a bid to mend the current issues.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen during the G7 summit in Cornwall.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen during the G7 summit in Cornwall.

EU chief Ursula von der Leyen’s refusal to renegotiate the Northern Ireland Protocol came despite Boris Johnson arguing there are “huge opportunity to find reasonable, practical solutions to the difficulties”.

Following their call, a Downing Street spokesman said: “The Prime Minister set out that the way the protocol was currently operating was unsustainable. Solutions could not be found through the existing mechanisms of the protocol. That was why we had set out proposals for significant changes to it.

“He urged the EU to look at those proposals seriously and work with the UK on them. There is a huge opportunity to find reasonable, practical solutions to the difficulties facing people and businesses in Northern Ireland, and thereby to put the relationship between the UK and the EU on a better footing. They agreed to remain in touch.”

Prime Minister Boris Johnson is currently self-isolating at Chequers.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson is currently self-isolating at Chequers.

Pressed on Ms von der Leyen’s tweet saying she did not accept a need to renegotiate the Northern Ireland Protocol, a spokesman for Boris Johnson said the UK Government wanted to continue engagement with Brussels.

“I haven’t seen those specific comments – I’m guessing they’ve happened since we’ve been in here (the No 10 briefing),” said a spokesman for the Prime Minister told reporters.

“I would point to what we’ve said in terms of the readout and the fact we continue to want to engage with the EU, to be constructive and collaborative and to try and address the issues that we know exists with the current arrangement.”