João Vale de Almeida, 64, appeared on the BBC’s Newsnight programme to discuss ongoing calls to alter the Northern Ireland Protocol. Speaking to Emily Maitlis, the EU’s ambassador to the UK warned Ulster Unionists they could not have unfettered access to the bloc’s Single Market if they wanted to end the ECJ’s jurisdiction over the province.
“There is no single market without [the] European Court of Justice,” said Mr Vale de Almeida.
“It is the ultimate jurisdiction… it’s the referee of the Single Market.”
The Portuguese-born diplomat added: “If Northern Ireland wants – and I think that’s what we heard in Northern Ireland, that’s what is in the Protocol by the way – to have access to the single market for goods, we are talking about the biggest single market in the world, and at the same time have access to the British market, it is a unique position in the world, if Northern Ireland wants this… there has to be a European Court of Justice.
“One does not go without the other.”
When asked by Ms Maitlis what would happen if the UK Government simply did not force Northern Ireland to follow ECJ rulings, the EU ambassador said that would “put at risk” Ulster’s access to the Single Market.
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The comments come after the Brexit Minister Lord Frost urged the EU to rethink the Protocol and remove ECJ jurisdiction from Northern Ireland.
The 56-year-old said: “To apply EU law without consent in one part of it and to have any dispute deriving from this arrangement to be settled in the courts of one of the parties.”
Lord Frost added: “The EU can insist on no change but if it does it must remember it is this Government, the UK Government, that governs Northern Ireland, as it does the rest of the UK.”
“Northern Ireland is not EU territory.”
Following Frost’s statement, the EU put forward new proposals that would reduce spot checks on food by 80 percent and relax restrictions on medicine crossing the Irish Sea.
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Despite constitutional concerns from Unionists and estimates the Protocol could cost up to £850 million per year, the Brussels diplomat said the EU has “heard” the people of Northern Ireland.
He added: “We care for Northern Ireland, we care for the peace and reconciliation, we care for the different communities and the way they feel about this.”
Instead, he blamed Britain’s decision to leave the EU for the subsequent difficulties.
“This problem was caused by Brexit, [there is] no confusion about that,” he said.
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