UK plans law to override Brexit deal as talks with EU falter

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson

Photo credit: Paul Grover/Daily Telegraph/PA W

Boris Johnson’s government will set out legislation to override parts of the Brexit deal in the coming weeks, a move that is likely to escalate tensions with the European Union over trading arrangements in Northern Ireland.

Speaking in the House of Commons on Tuesday, Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said that while the government’s preference is to reach a negotiated solution with the EU, the situation in Northern Ireland meant the UK has to act. The government plans to proceed with the legislation in parallel with talks.

“The Belfast Good Friday Agreement is under strain,” Truss told lawmakers. “This is because the Northern Ireland Protocol does not have the support necessary in one part of the community in Northern Ireland.”

Johnson’s government is frustrated that the deal has created a customs border between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK, disrupting trade and contributing to the collapse of the region’s devolved government. The EU is ready to suspend the entire trade agreement if Johnson makes good on his threats. 

Truss’s much-anticipated statement comes after weeks of briefings and strongly-worded statements from the UK, threatening to renege on its commitments under the deal it signed with the EU more than two years ago. But the foreign secretary on Tuesday said “proceeding with the bill is consistent with our obligations.”

“This is not about scrapping the protocol: our aim is to deliver on the protocol’s objectives,” Truss said. 

The planned legislation aims to restore the primacy of UK law over Northern Ireland, rather than the European Court of Justice. 

Truss said the UK plans a “green channel” for goods shipped to Northern Ireland from Britain that will stay in the region. That will be underpinned by trusted trader programs and real-time data sharing with the EU, according to the government. Goods destined for the EU will undergo “the full checks and controls applied under EU law,” Truss said. 

The UK’s aim is also to ensure that tax and other policies decided in London can also be applied to Northern Ireland in full.

©2022 Bloomberg L.P.

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