EU not interested in protecting the Belfast Peace Agreement: Northern Ireland’s first minister

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© Reuters. Puzzle with printed EU and UK flags

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LONDON (Reuters) – Northern Ireland’s first minister said the European Union’s promise to take legal action against the UK to extend the grace period for trade shows that protecting the trade bloc, not the Belfast peace accord, is a priority.

“What they are only interested in is the protection of their block. They are not interested in protecting the Belfast Accord as they claim,” Arlene Foster told BBC Radio on Friday.

“If it were you, you wouldn’t be taking the actions you are taking.”

The European Union announced on Wednesday that it would take legal action after the British government unilaterally extended a grace period to control food imports into Northern Ireland. Brussels said this was against the provisions of the UK divorce treaty.

Foster said the purpose of the protocol is to prevent UK goods from entering the EU single market, but its impact and the measures taken in London and Brussels are “completely disproportionate” to the risks.

“We have to replace (the protocol) because extended grace periods are certainly only sticking to the really fundamental problems of trade,” she said.

“There is a fundamental misunderstanding with the European Union about the damage they are causing.”

Since the EU’s promise to take legal action, loyalist paramilitary groups in Northern Ireland have announced that they are temporarily withdrawing support for the 1998 peace agreement known as the Belfast Peace Agreement or the Good Friday Agreement due to concerns about the Brexit deal.

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