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Boris Johnson braces for Brexit row with Parliament and the courts

Boris Johnson braces for fresh Brexit row with Parliament and the courts as the Government demands the EU agree to sweeping changes to Northern Ireland border rules

  • Boris Johnson wants EU to agree to a major overhaul of Northern Ireland rules
  • If Brussels does not budge then the UK is expected to unilaterally tear up rules
  • UK will tell the EU that European Court of Justice oversight of rules must end
  • Any bid to tear up rules will risk clash with Parliament and potentially the courts 

The Government is bracing for a fresh Brexit clash with Parliament and the courts as ministers tell the EU it must agree to make major changes to Northern Ireland’s border rules. 

The UK wants to renegotiate the terms of the Northern Ireland Protocol and Brussels is expected to set out its offer on Wednesday this week. 

However, Boris Johnson and his ministers fear the EU’s plans will not go anywhere near far enough, with the bloc so far only willing to make tweaks to the current arrangements. 

A failure to agree to a significant overhaul is expected to prompt the UK to unilaterally tear up the offending rules in a move which would result in fury in Brussels. 

Walking away from the arrangements by triggering Article 16 of the protocol could require laws to be passed through Parliament to enact the move. 

Ministers believe they will face ferocious opposition from the House of Lords while any attempt to tear up the rules without passing new legislation could result in a Supreme Court legal challenge. 

Meanwhile, ministers will tell the EU this week that removing the European Court of Justice’s oversight of the protocol is a ‘red line’ for the UK in a move which is likely to further inflame tensions. 

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson wants the EU to agree to a major overhaul of the Northern Ireland Protocol

Lord Frost is expected to tell the EU this week that removing the European Court of Justice’s oversight of the protocol is a ‘red line’ for the UK

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has so far refused to renegotiate the protocol. The EU is willing to make tweaks to the arrangements but is resisting a major overhaul

The Sunday Telegraph reported that Lord Frost, the Government’s Brexit chief, will tell his EU counterpart that European judges should no longer have a say over what happens in Northern Ireland.

He will deliver a speech in Portugal on Tuesday in which he will say the European Commission has been ‘too quick to dismiss governance as a side issue’ when the ‘reality is the opposite’.

The Government has repeatedly threatened to trigger Article 16 of the protocol which would allow Britain to unilaterally ditch some of the rules.  

The protocol, agreed as part of the Brexit deal, requires checks on goods travelling from GB to Northern Ireland to be carried out at ports in order to avoid the return of a land border with the Republic. 

But it has caused disruption to trade and angered unionists who have demanded the rules be scrapped, arguing they create a barrier between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK. 

The UK wants to renegotiate the terms of the protocol but the EU is only willing to make minor changes.

Lord Frost will warn in his speech that the EU must go further than scrapping its prohibition on British sausages to resolve the dispute over the protocol.  

The Cabinet Office minister will call for ‘significant’ changes to the post-Brexit agreement he negotiated, including over the role of the European Court of Justice.

His warning will come a day before the EU is expected to produce plans to resolve issues with the protocol. 

Brussels is likely to propose that chilled meats can continue crossing the Irish Sea from Britain after the end of the current grace periods, in a move to alleviate the so-called sausage wars.

But Lord Frost will use the speech in Lisbon to warn that compromises must go far further than this to address issues such as the role of the European Court of Justice in Northern Ireland.

‘The EU now needs to show ambition and willingness to tackle the fundamental issues at the heart of the protocol head on,’ he is expected to tell the diplomatic community.

‘The commission have been too quick to dismiss governance as a side issue. The reality is the opposite.

‘The role of the European Court of Justice in Northern Ireland and the consequent inability of the UK Government to implement the very sensitive arrangements in the protocol in a reasonable way has created a deep imbalance in the way the protocol operates.

The Northern Ireland Protocol has caused disruption to trade and angered unionists who have demanded the rules be scrapped, arguing they create a barrier between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK

‘Without new arrangements in this area, the protocol will never have the support it needs to survive.’

Ireland’s foreign minister Simon Coveney questioned whether UK ministers ‘actually want an agreed way forward or a further breakdown in relations’.

‘EU working seriously to resolve practical issues with implementation of Protocol – so UKG (Government) creates a new ‘red line’ barrier to progress, that they know EU can’t move on… are we surprised?’ he tweeted.

A Government source threatened that the UK would trigger Article 16 of the protocol if the EU proposals amount to ‘tinkering around the edges’.   

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