For months, the ongoing dispute over Northern Ireland’s Brexit status was frozen. But now the British Prime Minister is taking a new hit against the specially negotiated agreements.
Just a week after surviving a no-confidence vote in his group, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has started a new dispute with the EU.
A bill introduced in the House of Commons on Monday is intended to unilaterally change the Brexit arrangements for Northern Ireland agreed with Brussels. Criticism of the plans came from Brussels as well as from the Irish government in Dublin and the majority of MPs in Northern Ireland’s regional parliament. On the other hand, the move was welcomed by the unionist-Protestant party DUP in Northern Ireland.
Irish Prime Minister Micheal Martin called the bill a “fundamental breach of trust”. The head of government of the EU member called on London on Tuesday on the Sky News TV channel for serious talks. “The British government has so far lacked the will to really resolve this through negotiations. And it is now high time that substantive negotiations began in earnest.”
Fierce criticism also came from Berlin. Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) spoke of a very regrettable decision. Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock accused the British government of unilaterally breaking agreements and thus destroying trust. “And for transparent, own motives,” wrote the Green politician on Twitter. “Peace and prosperity in the Isle of Ireland is not a pawn.”
The law is necessary to ensure stability and peace in the former troubled province, said British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss. She added: “We remain open to talks with the EU.” However, progress can only be made if Brussels accepts changes to the agreement known as the Northern Ireland Protocol.
London is threatening to stop the goods controls agreed in the protocol to protect the EU internal market and to replace them with a voluntary regulation. In addition, the role of the European Court of Justice is to be drastically restricted. London also wants to give itself a free hand when it comes to VAT regulations. According to a large number of experts, this would be a clear breach of international law. However, the government in London denies this.
EU: No renegotiation
EU Vice-President Maros Sefcovic made it clear that renegotiating the Northern Ireland Protocol is out of the question. “It would just mean more legal uncertainty for people and businesses in Northern Ireland,” Sefcovic said in Brussels on Monday evening. The EU Commission will now consider resuming the legal proceedings against London that had been started for previous violations but were then put on hold. The initiation of further infringement procedures that could protect the European internal market is also being examined.
The US government called on London and Brussels to return to talks “to sort out differences,” said White House spokeswoman Karine Jean-Pierre.
Headwind for Johnson also came from Northern Ireland’s capital, Belfast. A letter signed by 52 of 90 MPs in the Northern Ireland Regional Parliament said the bill went against an express wish of businesses and people in Northern Ireland.
Intra-British goods border does not suit Brexit advocates
The Northern Ireland Protocol is part of the 2019 concluded Brexit agreement. It stipulates that the province, which is part of the United Kingdom, will continue to follow the rules of the EU internal market and the European Customs Union. This is intended to prevent product controls for the EU member Republic of Ireland in order to prevent the conflict between opponents and supporters of a unification of the two parts of Ireland flaring up again. However, an intra-British goods border has now been created for this.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson pushed through the agreement during the election campaign 2019 against the will of the DUP and celebrated it as a major breakthrough. He then won a clear majority in the parliamentary elections. In the meantime, however, he has gotten into trouble because of the affair about lockdown parties at the seat of government. Last week he had to face a no-confidence vote in his own group. He was able to assert himself, but is considered politically counted. According to British commentators, he wants to secure the support of the Brexit hardliners in his group with the step. (dpa)