London threatens Brussels to abandon entire sections of the Northern Irish protocol

Are we heading towards a new confrontation between London and Brussels? At stake, again and again, is the famous Northern Irish protocol, this crucial part of the Brexit treaty establishing a customs border between Northern Ireland and the rest of the United Kingdom. The Johnson government, however, approved it at the end of 2019, but has been seeking to renegotiate it since 2021, and is now threatening to abandon entire parts of it – in breach of its international obligations, warns Brussels.

On Thursday 12 May, following a telephone conversation with Maros Sefcovic, the Vice-President of the Commission in charge of Brexit, Liz Truss, the British Foreign Minister, assured that the United Kingdom will see “forced to act” if the European Union (EU) continues to show itself “inflexible” on the Northern Irish protocol. For the past few days, the British government has signaled that it is ready, via a bill which could be presented to the House of Commons as early as next week, to unilaterally revoke the customs controls made compulsory in the Irish Sea for all products intended for sale in Northern Ireland (and not for transit to the Republic of Ireland, a member of the EU).

According to TimesSuella Braverman, the British Attorney General, even passed a legal opinion to Downing Street, according to which London’s revocation of part of the protocol would be legal, because its application by the EU would be “disproportionate”. “The proposals from Brussels [pour aménager le protocole] do not go far enough and sometimes even constitute a step back. We haven’t made a final decision yet, but the situation is very serious.” warned a Downing Street spokesperson on Thursday.

Maros Sefcovic warned on Thursday that Brussels “will not renegotiate the protocol” and that a unilateral decision by London to withdraw would not be ” not acceptable “. He also lamented that London has so far failed to show “political will” necessary to make this customs arrangement work, involving “honesty” of the Johnson government.

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The Commission indeed proposed, in October 2021, to reduce by 80% the sanitary and phytosanitary controls required for British food, plant and animal products destined for Northern Ireland, and to reduce customs formalities by 50%, creating a kind of ” Expressway “ for these products. It also changed the rules to secure the long-term supply of medicines to Northern Ireland from Great Britain. “We are heading towards a crisissays Renew MEP Nathalie Loiseau. The British would like us to cancel the negative consequences of Brexit for them, it is not possible. »

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