LONDON (AP) — The U.K. foreign secretary warned the European Union on Thursday that the U.K. will “have no choice but to act” to withdraw parts of its Brexit deal on Northern Ireland if the bloc does not show flexibility.
British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said in a conference call with European Commission Vice-President Marros Sefkovic that arrangements for border and customs checks in Northern Ireland after Brexit have become Belfast’s “biggest move to form a new government” obstacle”.
The border between Northern Ireland, part of the UK, and EU member Ireland has long been the most thorny issue in the Brexit process.
They resurfaced after the Democratic Unionist Party refused to help form a power-sharing government with Irish nationalist Sinn Fein this week unless the post-Brexit arrangements were substantially changed or cancelled.
An open Irish border is a key part of the peace process to end decades of violence in Northern Ireland, the only part of the UK that shares a land border with EU countries. The EU and the UK have agreed to keep the Irish border free of customs posts and other checks after Brexit is finalised in late 2020.
Instead, checks are carried out on certain goods coming into Northern Ireland from elsewhere in the UK, such as meat and eggs. The Democratic Unionist Party strongly opposes the rules, saying the checks create barriers and undermine the British identities of its members.
Sefkovic reiterated to her Thursday that there is “no room to expand the EU’s negotiating mandate or make new proposals to reduce the overall level of trade friction,” Truss’ office said.
“The Foreign Secretary regrets this and says the situation in Northern Ireland is a matter of internal peace and security for the United Kingdom,” the Foreign Office said in a statement.
“If the EU does not show the necessary flexibility to help address these issues, then as a responsible government we will have no choice but to act,” the statement said.
Tensions over trade rules, known as the Northern Ireland Protocol, were already rising even before Northern Ireland held parliamentary elections last weekend.
Northern Ireland has not had a functioning government since February, when DUP leader Paul Givan resigned as first minister in protest over trade rules.
British officials have repeatedly warned that they could unilaterally suspend the arrangements if the EU does not agree to major changes.
British media reported that Prime Minister Boris Johnson may announce next week that his government will legislate to overturn parts of the Northern Ireland deal.
British Attorney General Suella Braverman has issued advice that the move will be legal as the EU erects trade barriers in the Irish Sea that undermine the Passion of Christ in Northern Ireland, The Times reported on Thursday Japan Peace Agreement.
Any move by the UK to unilaterally change the rules would lead to legal action by the EU and could escalate into a trade war.
“I believe that only a joint solution will work. Unilateral actions, which are in fact invalid for international agreements such as agreements, are simply unacceptable,” EU chief negotiator Sefkovic said after a conference call on Thursday.
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