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The UK will unveil its ‘next steps’ on the Northern Ireland protocol ‘in the coming days’, Boris Johnson has said, as his government heads into another clash with the European Union over post trade rules -Brexit.
Britain’s Prime Minister travels to Belfast on Monday for talks on restoring a power-sharing government in Northern Ireland, currently on hold as the UK region’s Democratic Unionist Party demands action on a Brexit protocol that will , in his view, is detrimental and requires an overhaul.
The UK negotiated the Northern Ireland Protocol with the EU when it left the bloc. It introduces customs and health checks on British goods arriving at ports in Northern Ireland to avoid these checks taking place at Northern Ireland’s land border with the Republic of Ireland, a member of the EU. A hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic was seen as a potential threat to peace on the island of Ireland.
In a Belfast Telegraph op-ed published on the eve of his trip, Johnson argued that the protocol had ‘not been adapted to reflect the realities’ of the Brexit trade deal signed between the UK and the EU. since then, and cited “a global pandemic and European war that has created a cost of living crisis on a scale not seen in half a century.”
The UK argues that the European Commission’s offer to reform the protocol – presented last October – fails to sufficiently reduce the burdens on traders. Brussels countered that the proposals marked a starting point for talks and warned of the far-reaching consequences for Northern Ireland if Britain acted unilaterally to suspend the protocol, which is permitted by the agreement in certain circumstances, but a decision that could lead to EU retaliation. .
While Johnson insisted the UK would “always keep the door wide open for real dialogue” on the protocol, and “continue to protect the [EU] single market,” he warned that the UK government would face a “need to act” if the bloc did not change its stance.
“The government has a responsibility to provide assurance that consumers, citizens and businesses in Northern Ireland are protected over the long term,” Johnson wrote. “We will present a more detailed assessment and next steps to parliament in the coming days.”
Johnson’s trip comes as UK media reports that 10 Downing Street is at odds with the Foreign Office, led by Liz Truss, over the difficulty of pushing any confrontation with the EU. The UK is preparing domestic legislation that could give ministers the power to override parts of the protocol, but a senior government official told The Sunday Times that if Britain wanted ‘a weapon on the table, we don’t don’t want to use it”.
They added: “It’s like nuclear deterrence. The prime minister doesn’t want to use nuclear weapons no matter what the morons tell him.”
A Foreign Ministry official said on Sunday that nothing had been decided yet. “Liz’s priority in all of this is to keep the peace process going and restore power sharing,” they said. “We are not looking to fight with the EU. Whatever happens, we want to keep talking even if it means having to take some form of independent action in parallel to help restore democratic processes in Northern Ireland.
On Sunday, Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng denied that the UK would put its international reputation at risk if it acted alone on the protocol.
“Frankly, I think people can see that we stand for the rule of law in Ukraine,” he told Times Radio. “And we have a good track record on that. I don’t worry about that. What worries me in this context is that the protocol is not working for the people of Northern Ireland and creating more political instability.”
But in Ireland, the UK’s position is met with deep skepticism. The country’s Taoiseach Micheál Martin suggested to reporters in Cork on Saturday that Johnson’s government was responsible for the protocol deadlock.
“The fundamental challenge with the Northern Ireland protocol may not be unionism,” he said. “I think that’s up to the UK government and the UK government has to figure out within themselves what they really want.”
In Dublin, a member of the Irish government coalition called on Johnson to make it clear during Monday’s trip to Belfast that he would continue to work with EU negotiators – and listen to parties representing the pro-protocol majority in the region British, not just the Democratic Unionists. .
“Monday’s visit cannot be just a ticking exercise,” Neale Richmond, Fine Gael’s spokesman for EU affairs, said in a statement. “We need to see the UK government mitigate the constant threats and engage properly. Unilateral action is in no one’s interest and the last week of threats has been very damaging to relations.
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