Britain on Wednesday demanded a new deal to oversee post-Brexit trade with Northern Ireland and warned the European Union that London would have the right to unilaterally deviate from a deal it struck with the bloc last year. .
The Northern Ireland protocol was agreed by Britain and the European Union as part of a 2020 Brexit deal, and was finally sealed four years after British voters backed the divorce in a referendum.
It sought to solve divorce’s biggest conundrum: how to protect the EU’s internal market, but also avoid the land borders between the British province and the Republic of Ireland, which politicians on all sides fear could lead to violence. fueling, largely ended by a 1998 US-brokered peace agreement.
The protocol essentially required controls on goods between mainland Britain and Northern Ireland, but these have proven to be a burden on business and anathema to “unionists” who strongly support the province remaining part of the United Kingdom.
“We cannot continue as we are,” Brexit minister David Frost told parliament.
He said there was justification for invoking Article 16 of the protocol, which would allow both sides to take unilateral action to lift its terms if an unexpected negative effect arises from the agreement.
“Clearly the circumstances exist to justify the use of Article 16. Nevertheless…we have concluded that now is not the right time to do so.
“We see an opportunity to do things differently, to find a new way to negotiate a deal with the EU, to rebalance our arrangements for Northern Ireland, to the benefit of all.”
Reuters exclusively reported on Monday that Britain is considering such a threat.
Frost said Britain wanted a new “balance”, detailed in a contract paper, which meant that the administration of the accord was no longer controlled by EU institutions and the European Court of Justice, and a “normal treaty framework” that “more was conducive to the sense of genuine and equitable partnership”.
“These proposals require a significant change to the Northern Ireland protocol,” Frost said. “We don’t shy away from that, we believe that such a change is necessary to cope with the situation we are now facing.”
While customs officials have so far taken a light-hearted approach to checking goods entering Northern Ireland from Britain under the protocol, major retailers have said they are struggling to cope with the situation and potentially disrupt the UK’s supply chains. to the EU.
Frost called for a “standstill period” that would maintain pre-existing grace periods with a freeze on existing legal proceedings.
Britain unilaterally extended a grace period to carry out full checks due in March for shipments of refrigerated meat products, and the EU later agreed to an extension until the end of September to end a dispute that the ” sausage war”.
The introduction of full customs controls could become a fire hazard, one of the country’s largest retailers, Marks & Spencer, said Wednesday, as they led to price hikes and some products failed to pass due to paperwork checks.
M&S said it has struggled to get goods to Ireland and France since Britain formally left the EU’s single market at the beginning of the year due to the amount of paperwork required, and Northern Ireland would suffer a similar fate.
“It’s going to be very, very serious for customers,” M&S chairman Archie Norman told BBC radio.
There have also been riots among trade union communities in Northern Ireland and pro-British paramilitary groups told Prime Minister Boris Johnson in March they were temporarily withdrawing support for the peace deal over concerns over the Brexit deal.
(This story was not edited by NDTV staff and was generated automatically from a syndicated feed.)