Johnson: UK will act on Northern Ireland rules if EU doesn’t

LONDON — Prime Minister Boris Johnson renewed Britain’s threats on Monday to break a Brexit deal with the European Union, blaming it for a political crisis blocking the formation of a new government in Northern Ireland.

Ahead of a visit to Belfast, Johnson said action would be ‘necessary’ if the EU did not agree to overhaul post-Brexit trade rules which he said destabilize the delicate political balance of Northern Ireland. North.

The Democratic Unionist Party came second and refuses to form a government, or even allow the assembly to sit, until Johnson’s government removes post-Brexit controls on goods entering Northern Ireland from the rest of the UK.

Under power-sharing rules put in place as part of the Northern Ireland peace process, a government cannot be formed without the cooperation of nationalist and unionist parties

Johnson was due to meet the leaders of the main political parties near Belfast and urged them to get back to work and ‘focus on day-to-day issues’. Schools. Hospitals. Cost of life.”

But he also accused the EU of refusing to give in on post-Brexit border controls.

“I hope that the position of the EU will change. If not, action will be needed,” Johnson wrote in the Belfast Telegraph.

Northern Ireland is the only part of the UK that shares a border with the EU. When Britain left the bloc in 2020, a deal was struck to keep Ireland’s land border free of customs posts and other checks, as an open border is a key pillar of the peace process that ended decades of violence in Northern Ireland. Instead, checks are carried out on certain goods, such as meat and eggs, entering Northern Ireland from the rest of the UK.

The arrangement is opposed by Northern Ireland trade unionists, who say the new controls have placed a burden on businesses and frayed ties between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK.

The UK government agrees the regulations, known as the Northern Ireland Protocol, destabilize a peace deal that relies on support from the Protestant Unionist and Catholic Nationalist communities.

While the DUP wants the protocol scrapped, most other parties in Northern Ireland want it retained.

“There is no denying that the delicate balance created (by the peace accord) in 1998 has been upset,” Johnson wrote. “Some of the political community in Northern Ireland feel that their aspirations and their identity are threatened by the way the protocol works.”

Johnson accused the EU of failing to acknowledge that the arrangements were not working. He said the government wanted to modify, but not delete, the agreement.

The EU says the treaty cannot be renegotiated, but is willing to show flexibility to ease the burden of controls.

Johnson said his government would “present a more detailed assessment and next steps to parliament in the coming days.” It will likely be legislation that would give Britain the power to override parts of the Brexit treaty.

Any such bill would take months to pass through parliament, but the unilateral move would anger the EU, which would retaliate with legal action – and possibly trade sanctions. The 27-nation bloc is Britain’s largest economic partner.

Ivan Rogers, former British ambassador to the EU, said: “I think there is a serious risk that we are headed for a trade war.”

British Prime Minister Spokesman Max Blain said a trade war is “not something we want or are looking for”.

“Our approach is to protect peace and democracy,” he said.

Irish Foreign Secretary Simon Coveney says a row between the UK and the EU ‘is the last thing Europe needs right now’ as it seeks unity in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

He said a unilateral move by Britain would violate international law and cause “tension, rancor, impasses” and “legal challenges”.

“It’s a moment of calm,” Coveney told a meeting of EU foreign ministers in Brussels. “This is a moment of dialogue, this is a moment of compromise and partnership between the EU and the UK to resolve these outstanding issues.”


Samuel Petrequin in Brussels contributed to this story.


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