European Court of Justice ‘can’t be cut out of Northern Ireland deal’, says Joao Vale de Almeida

In an interview with the Evening Standard, Joao Vale de Almeida hit back at Health Secretary Sajid Javid who insisted earlier “there should not be a role for the ECJ in any part of the UK…and that includes Northern Ireland.”

On the question of the ECJ’s role in Northern Ireland the Ambassador said: “For us it is not even a red line, it’s an impossibility to have at the same time the benefit of the access to the single market for goods for Northern Ireland …and to the UK market.

“There is no other territory in the world which can claim that opportunity.

“If you want to have access like Northern Ireland does to the single market for goods you need to play by the book, you play the rules. Any conflict that exists in the single market can go all the way up to the European Court of Justice…so one goes with the other.”

The stand off over the European court comes as UK and EU officials were starting preliminary talks on Thursday on a compromise to the contentious Northern Ireland Protocol, which avoids a hard border on Ireland by keeping the region in both the EU single market and Britain’s own trading zone.

But the arrangement creates a trade border in the Irish Sea leading to costly and time-consuming checks on goods flowing from Great Britain to Northern Ireland and inflaming tensions among unionists in the region. On Wednesday the European Commission’s Vice President Maros Sefcovic announced a series of proposals to ease 80 per cent of those checks and to remove blocks to the import of chilled meats and medicines.

However, Britain’s demand to end the ECJ’s role in the Protocol, and install a new independent arbitrator to rule on trade disputes, remains a major stumbling block.

Speaking on Sky News, Mr Javid signalled the UK’s aggressive approach to talks would continue, insisting that Brexit Minister Lord David Frost had made it clear in a speech on the Protocol in Lisbon on Tuesday that “one of the most important issues is to end the role of the ECJ in Northern Ireland”.

While Mr Vale de Almeida suggested there could be scope for other “mechanisms” to settle trade disputes, he added: “Ultimately if there is a conflict, if a jurisdiction has to say the final word on interpreting European law that is the European Court of Justice.”

Despite the disagreement over the ECJ, Mr Vale de Almeida told the Standard he was more “glass half full rather than half empty” on the prospect of a resolution and insisted the Commission’s proposals were a significant move.


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