UK Denies 'Scrapping' Brexit Deal NI Protocol as Proposed Changes Unveiled
Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said the changes to the Northern Ireland Protocol were necessary to keep the 1999 Good Friday Agreement alive, pointing out that cross-community power-sharing was in jeopardy due to unionist objections to customs checks on goods arriving from the British mainland.
The British Government has insisted a new bill to end Brussels-imposed trade restrictions with Northern Ireland does not mean "scrapping the protocol."
"We don't want to nix it, we want to fix it" Prime Minister Boris Johnson quipped to reporters on Tuesday.
Foreign Secretary Liz Truss laid out the British government's proposed changes to the Northern Ireland Protocol in Parliament on Tuesday afternoon.
That could see the UK invoke Article 16 of the agreement, allowing it to take steps to remedy restrictions to trade imposed by the European Union's interpretation of the addendum to the 2020 Withdrawal Agreement.
"This is not about scrapping the protocol," Truss stressed ."Our aim is to deliver on the protocol's objectives."
"We will cement those provisions which are working in the protocol, including the common travel area, the single electricity market and north-south co-operation, whilst fixing those elements that aren't, on the movement of goods, goods regulation, VAT, subsidy control, and governance," she said
Truss said the changes were necessary to keep the 1999 Good Friday Agreement alive, pointing out that cross-community power-sharing was in jeopardy due to unionist objections to customs checks on goods arriving from the British mainland.
"This is because the Northern Ireland Protocol does not have the support necessary in one part of the community," she said.
Even though the post-Brexit "grace period" meant the entirety of the protocol had not yet been implemented, "EU customs procedures for moving goods within the UK have already meant companies are facing significant costs and paperwork. Some businesses have stopped trade altogether."
"Our preference is to reach a negotiated outcome with the EU," Truss insisted. "We have worked tirelessly to that end and will continued to do so."
The Foreign secretary insisted â€” to both jeers and cheers from other MPs â€” that the changes in the new legislation were line with the protocol and the peace agreement.
"The government is clear that proceeding with the bill is consistent with our obligations in international law, and in support of our prior obligations in the Belfast Good Friday Agreement," she said.
Opposition Labour Party shadow international development minister Stephen Doughty appeared to side with Brussels on the protocol, accusing the government of secretly planning "to break it all along."
And he insinuated that disagreements between Westminster and Brussels could undermine European unity in support of Ukraine against Russia.
"When we seek to negotiate new deals abroad, does the government want to make other countries question whether we will keep our end of the bargain?" Doughty said. "There are wide-ranging and damaging repercussions undermining our ability to hold others to account for their own commitments, when we should, for example, be pulling together in support of Ukraine, not fuelling divisions with our European allies."
And anti-Brexit Liberal Democrat MP Layla Moran warned of "real consequences" if a mooted trade war with the EU developed.
But Democratic Unionist Party leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson said the bill was a "welcome if overdue" step towards addressing problems with the protocol, adding that his party wanted to see it passed in "days and weeks not months".
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