UK confirms plans to make changes to Northern Ireland protocol

Truss had previously warned the U.K. would have “no choice but to act” if EU lawmakers do not show the “requisite flexibility” over the protocol.

Janine Schmitz | Photothek | Getty Images

British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss confirmed on Tuesday that the government intends to introduce legislation to make changes to the Northern Ireland protocol “in the coming weeks.”

The protocol is part of the post-Brexit trading agreement which requires checks on some goods entering Northern Ireland from the rest of the U.K.

Truss’ comments are likely to exacerbate the risk of retaliation from Brussels and could kickstart a trade war with the world’s largest trading bloc.

“Our preference is to reach a negotiated outcome with the EU and we have worked tirelessly to that end and will continue to do so,” Truss said in the U.K.’s House of Commons.

“The government is clear that proceeding with the bill is consistent with our obligations in international law and in support with our prior obligations in the Belfast Good Friday Agreement,” Truss said, prompting jeers from opposition lawmakers.

The announcement comes shortly after Prime Minister Boris Johnson held emergency talks in Belfast in a bid to deescalate tensions over the protocol.

The agreement came into force in January last year because special trading arrangements were needed after the U.K. left the EU. The protocol was designed to avoid the need for a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, which remains part of the bloc.

However, the terms of the deal have resulted in delays and price rises as goods arriving in Northern Ireland require checks.

The province is currently gripped by a power-sharing crisis after Northern Ireland’s largest unionist party blocked the election of a Stormont Assembly speaker — effectively preventing the formation of a new executive.

The Democratic Unionist Party, which came second behind Sinn Fein in May 5 elections, says U.K. lawmakers must abolish the protocol, arguing that a customs border has been created across the Irish Sea and this undermines Northern Ireland’s place within the U.K.

The EU has urged Britain not to take unilateral action to override parts of the Brexit deal with Northern Ireland, warning there will be consequences if it does.

Johnson — despite renegotiating and signing up to the Northern Ireland protocol — has said “there will be a necessity to act” if the EU’s position does not change.

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