BRITAIN has urged Ireland to support its bid to water down the controversial Brexit border pact as part of wrangling over the future relationship with Brussels.
Officials have asked Dublin to lobby the European Commission to be more flexible with the implementation of the Northern Ireland protocol. In return for help in softening the border fix, the UK has offered to broker more favourable terms to let Ireland use the country as a land bridge to the rest of Europe. Sources say British diplomats have reached out to the Irish capital several times in recent months.
Under the Protocol, Northern Ireland will essentially remain in the EU’s customs union and single market to prevent the return of a hard border with the Republic.
But this means goods travelling from Great Britain to the province risk being slapped with customs tariffs unless an exemption is agreed.
Government officials are hoping Dublin can persuade the Commission to agree a wide-ranging list of exemptions to protect supermarket goods from the threat of trade levies.
They are also asking for safety checks on food products to be carried out in depots in Great Britain instead of at Northern Irish ports.
During the diplomatic outreach, it was also suggested Dublin could push for checks on live animals to happen at abattoirs rattan than the Port of Larne.
An Irish official told RTE: “We won’t get in a position where we’re teaming up with the British on something and then going back with it to Brussels.
“That’s just not how it was done for four years and we’re not going to start doing it now.
“We will transparently discuss and explore with the commission and Mr Barnier’s Task Force whether they’d be prepared to negotiate or explore these ideas, but we won’t do it bilaterally, and that still stands.”
Sources said London offered to make it easier for Irish truckers to use the UK as a “road bridge” to the EU market after the transition period expires at the end of the year.
Around 80 percent of Irish exports to the bloc relies on using British ports, such as Dover.
When Britain finally leaves the single market and customs union, Irish hauliers risk being snared in long queues as EU checks and controls are carried out for the first time in decades.
Dublin has already asked London to allow for Irish truckers to be fast-tracked through British ports.
The reports come amid a move by the UK Government to overwrite sections of the Northern Ireland Protocol.
In a furious outburst, top eurocrats signalled they were ready to quit the negotiations unless Boris Johnson univocally agreed to implement a series of checks on trade between Great Britain and Northern Ireland.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said honouring the Withdrawal Agreement signed last year is a “prerequisite” for a free-trade agreement.
And Michel Barnier, her chief negotiator, was said to be ready to storm out of this week’s crunch round of talks unless he is given sufficient promises by No10 over the implementation of the Northern Ireland Protocol.
With tensions on a knife-edge, astonished European sources blasted the Prime Minister for pursuing a “North Korea-style” deal with the bloc.
In a warning to Britain, Mrs von der Leyen said: “I trust the British Government to implement the Withdrawal Agreement, an obligation under international law and a prerequisite for any future partnership.”
Mr Barnier is in London this week for make-or-break talks with Lord Frost as wrangling over a trade deal enters its final stages.
Ahead of the talks, the Frenchman said: “This protocol is a condition for preserving peace and for protecting the integrity of the single market. It’s also a pre-condition for confidence between us because everything that has been signed in the past must be respected.”