British Foreign Secretary Liz Strath warned on Thursday that the UK would have “no choice but to act” after stalled talks with Brussels to ease the impact of post-Brexit trade checks in Northern Ireland.
Truss “regarded with regret” that there would be no major changes in the EU’s position on the Northern Ireland protocol governing trade in the region after Brexit, European Commission Vice-President Marros Shevchovic told the talks.
The lack of progress was widely expected, but now it clears the way for Prime Minister Boris Johnson to announce legislation, possibly as early as next week, that would allow Britain to unilaterally overturn parts of the protocol.
The move by London could trigger EU trade retaliation and fuel Washington’s concernsit warned the UK against any unilateral action.
The legislation is expected to pass roughly in parliament. Some Conservative MPs are expected to resist moves that would undermine parts of the UK’s Brexit treaty with the EU, while the House of Lords is also expected to be hostile to any unilateral changes to the international agreement.
Truss told Šefčovič that she was another figure in the negotiation of the deal, which required fundamental changes to trade rules, which was opposed by the pro-British union party in Northern Ireland.
She believes the main trade union party, the Democratic Unionist Party, is unlikely to rejoin the region’s power-sharing executive in Stormont unless checks on trade from the UK to Northern Ireland are significantly reduced.
The government has received legal advice that it justifies overturning parts of the deal negotiated by Johnson himself in favour of Good Friday Agreement 1998 This brought peace to the region.
“The fundamental problem is the EU’s refusal to support changing the deal, even if it would jeopardize peace and stability in Northern Ireland,” said a Truss ally. “This agreement should not take precedence over the Belfast Good Friday agreement.”
The Foreign Office noted that Truss said the current situation “is causing unacceptable disruption to trade and has created a two-tier system where people in Northern Ireland are treated differently than the rest of the UK”.
Johnson was warned when negotiating the protocol that it would create political problems in Northern Ireland as it created a trade border in the Irish Sea and made the area the EU’s single market for goods. It also defines an open land border on the island of Ireland.
The British government believes that the reforms to the Brexit deal proposed by the EU in October do not go far enough. Truss told Chefchovic that Brussels “has a responsibility to show more pragmatism in the negotiations”.
But European member states insist they are not ready to renegotiate an international treaty that only entered into force early last year. Their priority is to protect the EU single market, which allows goods to flow freely within the 27 countries once they cross the EU’s external borders.
“The EU just wants international agreements to be followed and is willing to be extremely flexible in how it tries to meet the real concerns of business people, especially the trade union community, in Northern Ireland,” Simon Coveney, Ireland’s foreign minister, told RTE radio on Thursday. express.
“The rhetoric we got from the UK government . . . basically paints the EU as a rigid institution . . . doesn’t reflect reality,” he added.
The European Commission’s briefing to member states on Wednesday said it would “resolutely respond” to any unilateral action by Britain “using the legal and political tools at its disposal”.
Johnson said he still wanted the EU to renegotiate the protocol, which could take months to enact, to create room for further talks. In London, however, there is little hope of a breakthrough.
Additional reporting by Jude Webb in Belfast