Protocol ‘endangers 25 years of peace in Ulster’: Boris Johnson warns EU to resolve trade problems in Northern Ireland or take unilateral action
- Boris Johnson said last night that Northern Ireland protocol must be resolved
- It comes at a time when Brussels and Washington have urged London not to cut parts of it
- PM last night claimed the post-Brexit deal threatens UK stability
The Northern Ireland Protocol threatens the stability of the United Kingdom, Boris Johnson claimed last night.
While Brussels and Washington urged London not to scrap parts of the post-Brexit deal, the prime minister said there was no need for “drama”.
But he could tear up parts of the deal as early as next week – and ministers have legislated to unilaterally suspend controls on goods flows from Britain to Northern Ireland.
Northern Ireland Protocol threatens UK stability, Boris Johnson (pictured in April) claimed last night
Foreign Minister Liz Truss will tell European Commission Vice-President Maros Sefcovic in a phone call this morning that the EU must move or the UK will act unilaterally.
And at a news conference in Sweden yesterday, Mr Johnson said protocol needed to be settled when asked if now was the right time to argue with Brussels.
“The most important agreement is the 25-year-old Belfast Good Friday Agreement,” Johnson said.
Pro-Europe Brexit protesters in Parliament Square on Wednesday. While Brussels and Washington urged London not to scrap parts of the post-Brexit deal, the prime minister said there was no need for ‘drama’
Question and answer
What is the NI protocol?
The protocol is a special Brexit deal for Northern Ireland. It was negotiated by the British government to avoid a hard border with the Republic of Ireland, effectively keeping the county in the European Union’s internal goods market.
What’s the problem?
Northern Ireland continues to follow certain EU laws under the protocol, and there are additional checks and paperwork in place for some products crossing the Irish Sea from Britain. But due to ‘grace periods’, not all of the trade controls required by the Brexit deal are in place yet.
What is the EU’s solution?
Brussels has repeatedly ruled out the need to renegotiate the protocol and believes that solutions can be found without changing the agreement. It has proposed building on existing grace periods and reducing 80 percent of checks on certain goods.
How has Britain reacted?
Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said the EU’s proposals fell short and would in some cases “set us backwards”.
British sausages, for example, would require veterinary certificates to enter Northern Ireland, and products such as New Zealand lamb might not be available. She has threatened to tear up parts of the protocol as early as next week if a negotiated solution cannot be found.
How would the EU react?
EU leaders have threatened a trade war between London and Brussels if the UK takes unilateral action. Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo said this week that if the protocol is revoked, “the entire system will be revoked.”
“That is crucial for the stability of our country, of the UK, of Northern Ireland.
“And it means things have to be cross-community.
“Clearly the Northern Ireland Protocol is failing to do that and we have to work it out.”
He later told the BBC: ‘Let’s face it, we’re talking – really in the scheme of things – a very, very small part of the whole European economy and I think 0.4 per cent of the value of the entire EU economy in Northern Ireland.
“It’s crazy. I don’t think drama is necessary. This just needs to be resolved.’
Prime Minister Michael Gove yesterday insisted he was “super cool” with threats to tear the deal – despite reports that he was against the plan.
“We will negotiate with the EU to get the best possible outcome for the people of Northern Ireland, but there is no option off the table,” he said.
EU officials have accused Britain of acting ‘irresponsibly’ by threatening to tear the protocol during the conflict in Ukraine.
A Brussels diplomat told The Guardian that Britain’s move jeopardized the international alliance against Vladimir Putin and “would only worsen the position of the West”.
US President Joe Biden urged the prime minister not to unilaterally abandon the protocol.
“The best way forward is a pragmatic one that requires courage, cooperation and leadership,” said a White House spokesman.
“We urge the parties to continue to engage in dialogue to resolve disputes and bring negotiations to a successful conclusion.”
EU leaders have also warned against tearing the deal, including German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, who said: “No one should unilaterally cancel, break or attack the settlement in any way.”
Northern Ireland Minister Conor Burns, who is the Prime Minister’s Special Representative to the US for the protocol, echoed Mr Johnson’s comments last night, saying the deal now poses the “greatest threat to the stability of the institutions that are emerged from the Good Friday Agreement. †
But he insisted the UK “wanted to negotiate this with our European friends and allies” and said he was convinced there was “a landing area”.
British ministers are under new pressure to resolve protocol issues following last week’s landmark election in which Sinn Fein became Stormont’s largest party.
The Nationalist Party now has the right to appoint a Prime Minister, but the Democratic Unionist Party must appoint a deputy to serve alongside them in the joint office.
US President Joe Biden (pictured Wednesday) urged the prime minister not to unilaterally walk away from protocol
The Unionist party has vowed to continue its boycott of the power-sharing executive until the British government takes “decisive measures” against the protocol.
The protocol was negotiated by the government to avoid a hard border with the Republic of Ireland, effectively keeping Northern Ireland within the EU’s internal market for goods.
But Unionists have pushed for it to be scrapped because of the trade barriers it has created for products crossing the Irish Sea from Britain.
Source: New feed