EU hits back: Brussels to back Brexit deal after furious legal challenge – showdown looms

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Unionist politicians across the UK made the move in response to trade disruptions through Irish Sea ports. DUP leader Arlene Foster has claimed the Brexit deal’s Northern Ireland Protocol to prevent a hard border also undermines the Good Friday peace process. Amid the growing tensions, the European Commission has said it will be “constructive” to find a solution that reassures the border plan’s critics.

A spokesman said: “We are fully committed to the Good Friday Belfast Agreement and to the proper implementation of the protocol on Ireland and Northern Ireland – protecting the gains of the peace process, protecting and maintaining stability and avoiding a hard border on the island of Ireland.”

EU and UK officials are due to meet this week to discuss potential solutions for ending the tensions in the region.

Customs officials were forced to withdraw from Northern Ireland ports after threats to their safety.

To keep the Irish border open, the area effectively remains part of the EU’s single market and some checks are now made on some products arriving from the rest of the UK.

The customs controls between Britain and Northern Ireland have infuriated Unionists.

Downing Street has called on eurocrats to take a pragmatic approach and for red tape to be eased after the worrying rise in tensions over the disruptions in trade.

The Commission has a “firm commitment to the proper implementation and also finding workable solutions to the various different outstanding implementation issues”.

Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove, who relinquishes his Brexit role in March to former negotiator Lord Frost, has called for grace periods to cut red tape to be extended.

He will hold showdown talks with Commission vice-president Maros Sefcovic later this week.

Without an extension, the current measures will expire on April 1 and spark further chaos between Northern Ireland and mainland Britain.

The Commission spokesman said: “We will bring with us a constructive attitude and that of a solutions-driven attitude.”

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Ms Foster has claimed the Northern Ireland Protocol is in breach of the peace process and the Act of Union.

She said: “Fundamental to the Act of Union is unfettered trade throughout the UK.

“At the cost of the Belfast Agreement was the principle of consent yet the Northern Ireland Protocol has driven a coach and horses through both the Act of Union and the Belfast Agreement.”

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Brexiteer Baroness Kate Hoey and Ben Habib, a former Brexit Party MEP, are also involved in the legal challenge.

Irish MEP Barrie Andrews said it was “very hard” to be sympathetic with DUP politicians because they rejected Theresa May’s proposal for a UK-wide backstop that would’ve avoided a border in in the Irish Sea.

He added: “I think everything we can do on the EU institutions side to make sure we mitigate the sincerely held concerns of moderate Northern Ireland voices should be done.”

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