Boris Johnson Says UK 'Will Act' If EU Refuses To Give Way On Northern Ireland Protocol
Boris Johnson says he will say more about his plans in the coming days (Photo: Victoria Jones via PA Wire/PA Images)
Boris Johnson has warned the EU that he is prepared to unilaterally rip up parts of the Northern Ireland Protocol unless Brussels agrees to make major changes to it.
The prime minister said there would be “a necessity to act” to protect the interests of consumers and businesses in the province if the EU does not budge.
His comments, in an article in the Belfast Telegraph, came as he prepares to fly to Northern Ireland for crunch talks with political leaders.
The Protocol, a key part of the withdrawal treaty struck between the UK and EU after Brexit, has led to checks on goods moving between Great Britain and Northern Ireland.
This has angered the Democratic Unionist Party, who have said they will not enter into a power-sharing executive at Stormont at Sinn Fein unless the Protocol is radically redrawn.
The EU has insisted that it will not renegotiate the Protocol, and that any unilateral action by the UK would break international law.
But in his article, the PM said “many things had changed” since he signed up to the Protocol, including the covid pandemic and war in Ukraine, which he blamed for the cost of living crisis.
He said the Protocol had prevented the government from being able to assist people in Northern Ireland in the same way as those in the rest of the UK.
“For the Chancellor of the Exchequer to say in his Spring Statement that people in Northern Ireland could not be granted the same benefits in terms of tax and VAT as those in the rest of the same country is a serious issue,” Johnson said.
“It means that our ability to assist with post-Covid recovery and – moreover, the long-term economic development of Northern Ireland – is restricted.”
He added: “We will always keep the door wide open to genuine dialogue. And we will continue to protect the single market – as it has been protected throughout the existence of the Protocol so far – and the open border with the Republic of Ireland which will always be of paramount importance.
“There is without question a sensible landing spot in which everyone’s interests are protected. Our shared objective must be to the create the broadest possible cross-community support for a reformed Protocol in 2024.
“I hope the EU’s position changes. If it does not, there will be a necessity to act.
“The government has a responsibility to provide assurance that the consumers, citizens and businesses of Northern Ireland are protected in the long-term. We will set out a more detailed assessment and next steps to Parliament in the coming days.”
On Sunday, business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng insisted the UK could unilaterally rip up the Protocol without breaking international law.
This article originally appeared on HuffPost UK and has been updated.