Seeking to put pressure on the European Union to obtain a renegotiation and to calm the unionists of Northern Ireland so that they unblock the regional institutions, the British government presented on Tuesday its unilateral plan to modify post-Brexit controls.
(Read here: What is Boris Jhonson exposing himself to by suspending the Northern Ireland protocol?)
In a long-awaited speech before the House of Commons, Foreign Minister Liz Trussannounced his “intention to introduce legislation in the coming weeks to bring changes to the protocol” in Northern Ireland.
“Our preference remains a negotiated solution with the EU, and in parallel with whatever legislation is introduced, we remain open to further talks, if we can achieve the same result through a negotiated settlement,” he added, pressuring Brussels to change its mind and hoping not to trigger a trade war for now with its former European partners.
Since the beginning of the Brexit negotiations in 2017, protecting the precarious balance of forces in Northern Ireland, historically and culturally very close to the neighboring Republic of Ireland -a member country of the EU- has always been the biggest hurdle to overcome.
And despite the fact that the United Kingdom officially left the bloc in February 2020 and completely in January 2021, the “protocol” is now causing tensions again, not only between London and Brussels, but also with the autonomous regional institutions of Belfast.
The Good Friday Peace Agreement of 1988which ended three decades of bloody conflict between Northern Irish Protestant unionists and Catholic republicans, imposed power-sharing on both sides in the regional executive of this British nation of 1.9 million people.
(Also read: Northern Ireland again causes tensions between London and Brussels)
However, 12 days after the historic victory of the Republican party Sinn Fein -former political arm of the armed group IRA and supporter of the reunification of Ireland- in the regional legislative elections, the unionist party DUP blocks the autonomous parliament and refuses to form.
What does the European Union say?
The European Union (EU) warned on Tuesday that it will be forced to react “with all the measures” at its disposal if the UK insists on unilateral changes to the special protocol negotiated for Northern Ireland as part of Brexit.
“If the UK decides to go ahead with a bill that disables the constituent elements of the Protocol, as announced today by the government of the
UK, the EU must respond with all measures at its disposal,” European Commission Vice President Maros Sefcovic said in a statement.
Our preference continues to be a negotiated solution with the EU, and in parallel with the legislation that is introduced
In his statement, Sefcovic pointed out that the protocol for Northern Ireland “is an international agreement signed by the EU and the United Kingdom. Unilateral actions that contradict an international agreement are not acceptable“.
In Sefcovic’s opinion, the protocol is an “integral part” of the UK’s exit agreements from the EU, and therefore a fundamental piece in the agreements that govern commercial relations between the parties after the problematic divorce.
(In other news: UK: Opposition leader embroiled in new ‘partygate’)
According to Sefcovic, the relationship between the EU and the UK “must be based on full respect for the legally binding commitments that the two parties have made to each other.”
The Irish Foreign Minister, Simon Coveney said on Tuesday that he “deeply regrets” the UK’s decision to drastically overhaul post-Brexit trade rules in Northern Ireland, considering it to be “damaging to confidence”.
“Such unilateral action with respect to an internationally binding agreement is damaging to confidence and will only serve to make it more difficult to find solutions,” he said in a statement.
*With information from AFP and Efe
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