Politics

Fear that 25 years of peace in Northern Ireland is at risk due to EU customs row

Boris urged to take action against EU by scrapping NI protocol

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Government ministers have reportedly already drawn up legislation to unilaterally suspend checks on goods flowing from Great Britain to Northern Ireland. While the EU and US urged the UK to scrap parts of the post-Brexit deal, the Prime Minister said there was no need for “drama”.

Earlier this morning, Liz Truss held last-minute talks with her EU counterpart Maroš Šefčovičas as a last-ditch attempt to iron out frictions caused by the agreement.

A Foreign Office spokesman said Ms Truss made clear that the UK’s “overriding priority” is to protect peace and stability in Northern Ireland.

The Foreign Secretary told Mr Šefčovičas that the protocol has become “the greatest obstacle” to forming a new Northern Ireland Executive.

However, according to the Foreign Office, the European Commission vice president once again “confirmed that there was no room to expand the EU negotiating mandate”.

He also outlined that the European Union would not table new proposals to ease frictions.

A spokesperson for Ms Truss that if the EU does not show the “requisite flexibility” over the Northern Ireland Protocol the UK will have “no choice but to act” alone.

It comes, as during a press conference in Sweden yesterday, Boris Johnson was asked if now was the right time to pick a fight with Brussels.

In response, the Prime Minister said the protocol needed to be sorted out.

He pointed out that the Belfast peace agreement was a vital treaty to protect, as it proved “crucial” for the stability of the UK and Northern Ireland.

Mr Johnson said: “The most important agreement is the 25-year-old Belfast Good Friday Agreement.

“That is crucial for the stability of our country, of the UK, of Northern Ireland.

“And it means that things have got to command cross-community support.

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“Plainly the Northern Ireland Protocol fails to do that and we need to sort it out.”

The protocol came into effect last year as part of a special Brexit deal for Northern Ireland.

It is reported that the UK will introduce legislation to overrule aspects of the Protocol as early as next week.

Ministers have said they could also trigger Article 16 of the protocol – which allows either side to suspend some of the arrangements.

After Wednesday’s press conference, Mr Johnson told the BBC: “Let’s face it, we’re talking about – 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 whole of the EU economy in Northern Ireland.

“It is crazy. I don’t think there’s any need for drama.

“This is something that just needs to be fixed.”

US President Joe Biden and EU leaders including German chancellor Olaf Scholz have warned against stepping away from the protocol unilaterally.

While Northern Ireland minister Conor Burns, who is Mr Johnson’s special representative to the US on the protocol echoed the PM’s comments.

Mr Burns described the deal as the “greatest threat to the stability of the institutions that were born out of the Good Friday Agreement.”

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