IRELAND is growing frustrated that it’s trapped in the middle of a bitter row between the EU and Britain over the implementation of Brexit trade rules.
Concerns over the Northern Ireland Protocol to avoid a hard border have caused massive friction between Brussels and London. But it is Dublin that finds itself stuck in the middle of the row, juggling the delicate issue of the peace process alongside its steadfast commitment to EU membership. Its politicians say they have spent years working to keep discussions between the EU and UK civilised on the thorny issue of the Irish border.
Both sides eventually agreed on the Brexit deal’s protocol as the solution to maintain frictionless trade between north and south.
But the measures have been heavily criticised by the UK Government and unionist politicians in Northern Ireland.
To keep the border open, Northern Ireland essentially remains in the EU’s single market, with a number of controls on goods sent from the rest of the UK.
This has prompted complaints that the region has been annexed from mainland Britain and the arrangements have had a chilling effect on trade.
Brexit minister Lord Frost has called for the legal text to be renegotiated to eliminate the trade checks, but his plan to protect peace in the region has been largely rejected by Brussels.
Neale Richmond, European affairs spokesman for Fine Gale, the second biggest party in Ireland’s coalition government, said: “We spend a lot of time second-guessing what the British Government is trying to achieve.”
He branded a recent newspaper article by Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis and Lord Frost “really unhelpful”.
They had both argued there was a threat to peace and stability in the area if a “new balance” was not found for the protocol.
The DUP have long argued that Dublin has failed to protect North-South relations through its failure to help rip up or overhaul the arrangements.
Mr Richmond told the FT: “It’s not in Ireland’s interests to chase the nonsense the DUP are talking about.”
Dublin has called for a pragmatic approach but insists the protocol should not be renegotiated.
The Irish government has made clear that flexibilities exist within the legal treaty to protect the territorial integrity of the UK and Northern Ireland’s place within it.