Boris Johnson today warned he is ready to ‘take action’ over post-Brexit rules for Northern Ireland amid claims Britain could scrap key parts of an EU agreement within days.
Mr Johnson also hit out at the EU for failing to take the ‘steps necessary’ to address the disruption the post-Brexit agreement is causing in Northern Ireland.
The historic result of last week’s Northern Ireland Assembly elections has piled the pressure on both the UK and EU to come up with a solution to their ongoing dispute.
The DUP, who have now been replaced by nationalist Sinn Fein as the largest party at Stormont, yesterday turned up the heat on the Protocol row.
The unionist party confirmed they won’t re-enter a powersharing administration in Northern Ireland without ‘decisive action’ on the post-Brexit trade rules.
Following the dramatic developments at Stormont, Foreign Secretary Liz Truss is now claimed to be preparing to unveil legislation that would scrap key parts of the Protocol in British law.
It led to increased speculation that Britain and the EU are now headed for a bitter trade war.
In his phone call with Mr Martin this morning, Downing Street said both Mr Johnson and his Irish counterpart agreed on the ‘vital importance’ of restoring devolved government in Northern Ireland.
As well his condemnation of EU efforts to reach a compromise, the PM also reiterated his warning that the UK could act alone if a deal isn’t reached.
‘The Prime Minister made clear that the situation in respect of the Northern Ireland Protocol was now very serious,’ said Number 10 in a readout of the call.
‘The balance of the Good Friday Agreement was being undermined and the recent elections had further demonstrated that the Protocol was not sustainable in its current form.
‘Despite repeated efforts by the UK Government over many months to fix the Protocol, including those sections related to the movement of goods and governance, the European Commission had not taken the steps necessary to help address the economic and political disruption on the ground.
‘The Prime Minister reiterated that the UK Government would take action to protect peace and political stability in Northern Ireland if solutions could not be found.’
Today’s Queen’s Speech, in which the Government unveiled its new legislative agenda, also hinted at possible unilateral action from Westminster.
Ministers noted how the problems caused by the Protocol ‘continue to stand in the way’ of a Stormont executive being formed.
‘We will continue to talk with the EU but we will not let that stand in the way of protecting peace and stability in Northern Ireland,’ they added.
‘As any responsible government would, we will take the steps necessary to protect all dimensions of the Good Friday Agreement and meet our obligations under the “New Decade New Approach Deal” to protect Northern Ireland’s place in the UK internal market.’
The Protocol was designed to prevent a hard border on the island of Ireland after Brexit and imposed checks on goods moving from Great Britain to Northern Ireland.
But the EU’s ‘dogmatic’ and ‘rigid’ implementation of the Protocol has been blamed by British ministers for causing significant trade disruption.
The DUP and other unionists are also concerned the agreement has been detrimental to Northern Ireland’s status within the UK.