EU 'deeply regrets' handling of Article 16 of the Northern Ireland Protocol

EU Commission vice-president Maros Sefcovic leaves EU House, London. Mr Sefcovic has travelled to Lo

EU Commission vice-president Maros Sefcovic leaves EU House, London - Credit: PA

The EU has admitted that mistakes were made in the process leading up to its recent attempt to trigger Article 16 of the Northern Ireland Protocol - but pointed out it resolved its mistake within a matter of hours.

The European Commission's vice-president Maros Sefcovic said that the commission “deeply regrets” how it handled the issue.

Sefcovic told Ireland’s European Affairs Committee: “But in the end, in a matter of three hours we got it right. Article 16 was never activated and I can reassure you that the commission has learned the lesson, and the commission will do its utmost to protect peace in Northern Ireland, as it has done throughout the entire Brexit process.

“I’m sure you will ask me, how can I prove that?

“I think that the best answer is our track record, unwavering support, political, economic and financial to the peace process since the Belfast agreement was signed and agreed upon.

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“Also the way in how we conducted the entire Brexit negotiation process.

“I really would like to underscore the fact that Ireland and Northern Ireland was not only on our minds all the time, but also in our hearts as well, and therefore I believe we achieved very good results.”

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Sefcovic also told the Oireachtas committee that their commitment to the protocol was "unwavering".

"But we also have to understand that the implementation of the protocol is a shared responsibility.

“It must be always a two-way street.

“We also have to recognise the fact that we knew from the beginning that the United Kingdom leaving the European Union, the Customs Union and the Single Market is a massive operation, that it’s not possible to prevent all the disruption.

“We could do our best and we are working on it to minimise the negative impact on the people of Ireland and Northern Ireland.

“But it was quite obvious from the beginning that there will be the teething problems and I believe that we can resolve them if we work very well together.”

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