Johnson defends proposed unilateral changes to Northern Ireland Protocol
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has defended proposed unilateral changes to the Northern Ireland Protocol that would remove parts of the treaty signed with the EU
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has defended proposed unilateral changes to the Northern Ireland Protocol that would remove parts of the treaty signed with the EU. The provisions did not constitute a breach of the law, Johnson told radio station LBC on Monday morning. Rather, it is a matter of some “banal adjustments”. In the afternoon, Johnson’s government wanted to present its bill on the amendments in Parliament.
London is expected to remove most of the protocol’s customs controls between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK. However, the EU sees unilateral changes to the protocol as a violation of international law and is threatening harsh consequences.
The Northern Ireland Protocol is part of the Brexit agreement between Brussels and London. The agreement, negotiated and signed by Johnson, has governed the status of Britain’s province since Britain left the EU almost a year and a half ago. It provides for customs controls on goods exchanged between Northern Ireland and Great Britain. Because de facto Northern Ireland is part of the EU internal market and the customs union because of its open border with EU member Ireland.
London had agreed to this regulation to prevent controls at the inner-Irish border, as this could endanger the peace process in the former troubled region. However, London is now opposing the controls in the Irish Sea, which it considers impractical. The British government is envisioning a new system that would allow goods from England, Scotland and Wales to be delivered to Northern Ireland without red tape.
Foreign Minister Liz Truss tried in vain to promote Britain’s position in telephone conversations with her Irish colleague Simon Coveney and the EU Deputy Commission President Maros Sefcovic on Monday. Sefcovic regretted London’s “unilateral” move, which undermined mutual trust. At the same time, he again referred to the EU’s proposed solutions.
Coveney made a similar statement after the call to Truss. He accused his British colleague of not having negotiated seriously with Brussels. London still prefers a negotiated solution, Truss assured. For this, however, the EU must be “ready to change the protocol”.
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