LONDON — The UK has backed off from threats that it could introduce devastating legislation to tear up its Brexit deal covering Northern Ireland — for now.
UK government insiders had advised in recent weeks that he could introduce a bill in the Queen’s Speech which would allow ministers to override parts of the Northern Ireland Protocol agreed between the UK and the EU. EU but deeply controversial with Northern Ireland Unionists.
But such a plan was not on the list of bills due to be introduced in the next session of parliament in the so-called Queen’s Speech, read this year by Prince Charles amid the monarch’s health problems. British.
Instead, the government issued a veiled threat to Brussels that it could go rogue again to protect the peace in Northern Ireland.
Ministers negotiated with Brussels to reduce trade friction between Britain and Northern Ireland, after the protocol drew a customs border along the Irish Sea in a bid to protect the single market from the EU and to avoid a hard border between Northern Ireland and the neighboring Republic of Ireland after Brexit.
Northern Ireland Unionists are now refusing to help form a government after recent elections there and are instead pushing for changes to protocol, which they see as driving a wedge between the region and the rest from the United Kingdom.
The nationalist Sinn Féin party, which supports the protocol, won the election and the majority of Northern Irish voters backed the pro-protocol parties. But the British government insisted the arrangement had to be renegotiated.
“In the interest of all communities in Northern Ireland, the protocol must change,” the ministers said in a document accompanying the Queen’s speech.
The document urged EU counterparts to negotiate the change, but said the UK would not allow negotiations to ‘get in the way of safeguarding peace and stability in Northern Ireland’.
The wording leaves the door open to the use of UK legislation at a later stage to disapply parts of the protocol and replace them with a UK approach if talks with the EU do not result in a compromise that London deems acceptable.
UK Attorney General Suella Braverman has reportedly sought outside legal advice on options for breaking the deadlock in the talks, and UK officials say a plan to legislate against the protocol should be justified by the need to protect the Good Friday Agreement for this. to avoid a challenge in court.
The plan, however, does not appear to have the full support of the UK government.
A person familiar with the talks said Chancellor Rishi Sunak was worried about the impact of unilateral action on Britain’s relationship with the EU and the possibility of trade retaliation, and the Housing Secretary Michael Gove would prefer to allow talks with the EU to continue for a bit. longer.
If the threat materializes, the European Commission should remind Britain of its obligation to respect the international commitments it undertook when enacting the Brexit divorce agreement, and could bail out the list of retaliatory measures agreed by EU countries last fall in case the UK tore up the protocol.
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