Boris Johnson must stick to every line of Brexit deal, says Barnier


Michel Barnier, Chief Negotiator of the UK Task Force of the European Commission.

Thierry Monasse | Getty Images News | Getty Images

LONDON — British Prime Minister Boris Johnson must abide by all aspects of the Brexit withdrawal agreements, former European Union chief negotiator Michel Barnier has urged.

Johnson and senior members of his ruling Conservative Party have publicly called for the scrapping or radical overhaul of the Northern Ireland Protocol, part of the withdrawal agreements brokered by the UK and EU in 2019.

The protocol came into force last year and was designed to prevent customs checks and an effective land border between Northern Ireland, which is part of the UK, and the Republic of Ireland, which remains in the EU. This is particularly important given the fragile peace in Northern Ireland since the 1998 Good Friday Agreement.

However, the protocol requires checks on goods traveling to Northern Ireland from the rest of the UK and has caused an outcry among Northern Ireland trade unionists who say it poses a threat to the country’s place within from the United Kingdom.

British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss and European Commission Vice-President Maroš Šefčovič met in London on Friday for talks, but the standoff between London and Brussels shows little sign of easing.

The UK government has also lamented the bilateral fisheries deal contained in the Withdrawal Agreement as the UK fishing industry struggles to manage post-Brexit licensing disputes.

Speaking to CNBC exclusively on Monday ahead of the French presidential elections, in which he backs center-right Les Républicains candidate Valérie Pécresse, Barnier said the British prime minister should honor agreements reached with the European Union to preserve relations between the United Kingdom and France.

“The commitments made by Mr Johnson in the Brexit negotiations – in the first pact that we negotiated, which includes the Irish protocol, and the issue there is that of peace in Ireland, the stability of the island, and the second Brexit trade and industry pact where the fishing treaty is — those two pacts that were negotiated step by comma, sentence by sentence by Mr Johnson, and which he knows very well, must be respected, that the United Kingdom maintains its commitments vis-à-vis the European Union, vis-à-vis France,” said Barnier.

Despite the differences over existing agreements, he however suggested that it is more important to “look to the future” when it comes to relations between London and Paris.

“We have many reasons to work together, not just on a military scale, against terrorism, climate change, cross-border cooperation, there are many reasons why France and the UK should cooperate greatly.”

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