European Commission vice president Maros Sefcovic has said the post-Brexit trade deal is “intrinsically linked” to settling the Protocol.
Sefcovic was speaking at the Brexit Institute at Dublin City University, immediately before negotiations with Lord David Frost.
Sefcovic said: “Settling the divorce has always been and remains a precondition for our future relationship.
“It was on this basis that we negotiated, concluded and ratified the trade and co-operation agreement on Christmas Eve last year.
“The two agreements are intrinsically linked, one cannot exist without the other.”
‘Change in tone’
Sefcovic has welcomed a “change in tone” from the UK Government in negotiations on the Protocol.
He said: “I notice and welcome a recent change in tone from the UK Government and we hope that actions will follow the words.”
However, he ruled out a renegotiation of the protocol.
He said: “Our solutions can become reality if the UK plays its part. That is why we have engaged constructively with the UK in order to agree joint solutions.
“But we also make clear, with the full support of the European Parliament and the member states, that we will not renegotiate the protocol.
“To do so would mean to put at risk the stability in Northern Ireland and it would be unnecessary because solutions are available within the framework of the protocol.”
Sefcovic further said new measures would create an “express line” on trade, resulting in a “win-win situation” for all.
He said the proposals would result in the removal of up to 80% of checks currently needed, and a 50% permanent reduction in paperwork.
He added: “These measures would create a type of express line which would substantially facilitate trade between all parties, a win-win situation for all.
“It is a unique and completely new model for how goods can be moved from Great Britain to Northern Ireland, one that would strengthen opportunities for people and businesses alike.”
He added: “It will make the application of the protocol more transparent while at the same time respecting the UK’s constitutional order.
“A website will also be set up to show in a clear and comprehensive way the EU legislation applicable in Northern Ireland.”