Despite the risks of reprisals from the Europeans, the British government threatened on Tuesday May 17 to legislate in the coming weeks to reverse the post-Brexit controls which plunged Northern Ireland into a political crisis.
Due to the political impasse in the British province and the disruption in trade between the province and the rest of the United Kingdom, London wishes to renegotiate in depth the Northern Irish protocol concluded at the time of Brexit with the European Union, who only says she is ready for accommodation.
After months of fruitless discussions, the head of diplomacy Liz Truss explained to the deputies that the government intended “introduce a bill in the coming weeks to make changes to the protocol”. “It is not a question of eliminating the protocol”, and the proposed legislation is compatible with the United Kingdom’s obligations under international law, the minister insisted on this project which risks triggering anger on the side of the EU.
“Our preference remains a negotiated solution with the EU and, alongside the introduction of the legislation, we remain open to further discussions, if we can achieve the same result through a negotiated settlement. »
The EU has previously warned that reneging on this treaty signed by Boris Johnson knowingly would violate international law and that the United Kingdom would be exposed to severe trade retaliation.
” Good start “
On Monday, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he “would like” solve the question “in a consensual manner with our friends and partners” of the EU, adding however that the UK also needed “insurance” of one “legislative solution at the same time”. The Conservative leader was speaking during a visit to Northern Ireland, where he tried to convince the different political formations to find a compromise and ” go back to work “.
Because, since the historic victory of the Republicans of Sinn Fein in the local elections on May 5, the Northern Irish institutions have been at a standstill. Unionists in the DUP refuse to participate in the local executive, which was supposed to be shared under the 1998 peace agreement that ended three decades of bloody conflict, known as the “Troubles”. And they blocked the local Assembly by refusing to designate a new candidate.
Unionists thus intend to press for modification of the Northern Irish protocol, the agreement signed between London and Brussels to respond to the delicate question of the border between British Northern Ireland and the European Republic of Ireland after Brexit. This text creates a de facto customs border with Great Britain and threatens, according to them, the place of the province within the United Kingdom to which they are viscerally attached.
Amid the political tussle, Unionist DUP leader Jeffrey Donaldson called the government announcements a ” good start “ but demanded “acts” and not only ” words “. Sinn Fein Republicans strongly oppose a British bill.
The EU “will have to respond with all means”
The Republic of Ireland, an EU member, is worried about the consequences of a possible British decision. “Any unilateral action is harmful”Irish Prime Minister Micheal Martin tweeted on Monday, calling for a solution through negotiation.
The head of the Irish diplomacy, Simon Coveney, expressed his deep regrets on Tuesday after the speech of Mme Truss. “Such unilateral actions regarding a binding international agreement damage trust and will only serve to make it more difficult to find solutions to real concerns” residents of the province about the implementation of the protocol, he said in a statement.
The European Union “will have to respond with all the means at its disposal” if the United Kingdom carries out its threats, warned for his part the Vice-President of the European Commission, Maros Sefcovic, in a press release.
The bill announced on Tuesday provides for goods moving and remaining within the UK to pass through a “new green channel”, freeing them from administrative procedures. Goods destined for the EU will remain subject to all checks and controls applied under EU law.
“Businesses will be able to choose between meeting UK or EU standards in a new dual regulatory regime”said M.me Truss. To address EU concerns over the protection of the single market, London promises to share more data.
Northern Irish institutions had already experienced three years of paralysis, against the backdrop of a financial scandal, before an agreement allowed the restoration of their operation in January 2020.