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European Commission Vice-President Maroš Šefčovič on Sunday warned the British government against “unilateral measures” such as detaining EU citizens in detention centers and urged London and Brussels to “calm down” and “focus on the future” .
Media reports of “European citizens being locked in detention cells or being fingerprinted just because they wanted to visit the UK doesn’t help the atmosphere,” Šefčovič told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show.
POLITICO recently reported that 30 EU citizens were detained and held in deportation centers after trying to enter the UK for work without a visa or residence permit.
These included German, Greek, Italian, Romanian and Spanish nationals detained at the British border and held for up to seven days before being returned to their home countries.
“I think what we need in our EU-UK relationship is more … cooperation, a common approach and not unilateral action because I think that would add further strain to our relationship,” Šefčovič told Marr.
“We need to calm down, focus on how to solve the problems and focus on the future,” he added.
During the program, Šefčovič fought verbally with Edwin Poots, the newly elected leader of Northern Ireland’s largest British Protestant party, the Democratic Unionists.
Poots is calling for the Irish protocol to the Brexit trade agreement, which creates a new trade frontier for goods shipped from the rest of the UK to Northern Ireland, to be repealed
Poots warned Northern Ireland would face a potentially violent summer of unionist street protests unless the EU relaxes the requirements of the protocol to fully enforce EU customs and hygiene controls on goods arriving from the UK.
Šefčovič said the obvious solution would be for the UK and the EU to agree on common veterinary standards, eliminating the need for controls on animal and plant products, which account for four-fifths of Northern Ireland’s imports from the UK.
On Saturday, Šefčovič gave an interview to the Financial Times warning the UK of EU countries’ growing impatience over Northern Ireland’s trade issues and other post-Brexit issues.
“All of these solutions come from us,” Šefčovič told the FT. “It is very clear that the atmosphere will get sour if we don’t see any positive developments … The political environment would be much more difficult.”
Since Brexit, EU citizens have not been able to enter the UK for employment unless they have a work visa or EU settlement status that guarantees the right of residence to those living in the UK before leaving the EU .
EU citizens can travel to the UK without a visa and stay for up to 180 days. The UK Border Guard has the right to refuse entry to EU citizens if officials have reasonable grounds to suspect that they are working in the country but cannot provide a work visa.
Shawn Pogatchnik contributed the reporting.