Boris Johnson given ‘final warning’ to reach new deal with EU to stop Belfast riots

Northern Ireland: Hain calls on Boris Johnson to work with EU

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Lord Hague has insisted Prime Minister Boris Johnson needs to find a common ground with Brussels over the Northern Ireland protocol amid rising tensions across the state within Loyalist communities opposed to the new Irish sea customs border. It comes following a string of violent riots in a number of Northern Irish cities and towns including Belfast, Londonderry and Carrickfergus. Lord Hague said the disorder was a “final warning” for both sides to reach an agreement on the implementation of the Brexit withdrawal agreement.

The former Tory party leader told TimesRadio that the recent rioting in Northern Ireland was “very worrying news,” which was a “final warning” to get EU/UK relations onto a better footing.

Lord Hague said: “The latest very worry news from Northern Ireland really is the worst of this, that really is a final warning.” 

“There are talks going on that are apparently making some progress about what is called the Northern Ireland protocol,” he added.

“But it shouldn’t have to come to that crisis point to get those talks to make progress.”

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Frantic “technical talks” are underway between EU and British officials to iron out systems for the future checks on food, plants and parcels going from Britain to Northern Ireland.

Relations between London and Brussels hit rock bottom last month, with the EU launching legal action against the UK over the extension of the grace period for checks on supermarket goods travelling from Britain to Northern Ireland.

Meanwhile, the crisis deepened further last week following seven successive nights of violence on the streets of Belfast.

Brexit chief David Frost and his EU counterpart Maros Sefcovic are expected to meet in the coming days to find a way to smooth over tensions over the protocol.

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One EU diplomat told the Financial Times: “They are advancing on a technical level and probably we will see a [Frost-Sefcovic] meeting rather sooner than later.”

A British official added: “The mood seems to have warmed up a bit — the tone of the discussions is quite good.”

But UK officials said there were still major hurdles to be crossed in order to resolve the issues around the implementation of the Northern Ireland Protocol.

Downings Street has warned significant differences remain between Britain and the EU over the post-Brexit trading arrangements with Northern Ireland.

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Anger at the post-Brexit trading arrangements, which have effectively created economic barriers with the rest of the UK, have been cited as one of the factors behind the violence that has erupted in loyalist areas of Northern Ireland in recent days.

Recent street clashes saw rioters blasted with water cannons for the first time in six years as Belfast police came under attack. In total, 19 police officers were injured on Thursday night sones and fireworks were thrown by gangs of youths gathered on the nationalist Springfield Road.

Meanwhile, a burning car was left on a railway track between Belfast and Derry yesterday, leaving Northern Ireland’s infrastructure minister “deeply concerned”.

Chris Conway, Translink Group chief executive, shared the 7.10pm train driver “reacted quickly and thankfully brought the train to a stop safely, short of where the car was burning”.

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