On a tour of Northern Ireland, the European Commission Vice President Maros Sefcovic said the existing post-Brexit trade rules for Northern Ireland were "the only solution" on Friday, rejecting the calls from London and from local pro-British lawmakers to change the protocol.
In a speech at Queen's University Belfast, Sefcovic said redoing the trade deal which mandates checks on goods crossing the Irish Sea from mainland Britain "would mean instability, uncertainty and unpredictability in Northern Ireland."
The checks were introduced to prevent goods from entering the EU illegally through Northern Ireland but also to prevent customs checks with Ireland. The compromise was necessary to honor the 1998 peace deal that ended decades of conflict and removed the border between EU member nation Ireland and Northern Ireland, part of the United Kingdom.
Sefcovic's remarks come one day after the leader of Northern Ireland's biggest party suspended cooperation with Dublin.
The EU representative also said Brussels would "continue looking for solutions to minimize the effects of Brexit" on people's daily lives.
EU 'mistaken and foolish'
Pro-British lawmakers from Northern Ireland with the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) attacked Sefcovic's comments.
Gavin Robinson, a member of the British parliament, said the EU stance was "mistaken and foolish" in a statement put out by the party.
DUP leader Jeffrey Donaldson warned political institutions in Northern Ireland "will not survive a failure to resolve the problems."
The party has threatened to withdraw from the region's power-sharing government seen as integral to the 1998 Belfast Peace Agreement.
ar/dj (AFP, Reuters)