UK News

Attorney general approves scrapping of NI protocol – reports

The foreign secretary, Liz Truss, is to hold talks with the vice-president of the European Commission, Maroš Šefčovič, in the first meeting since the UK threatened to remove parts of the NI Brexit protocol.

The attorney general for England and Wales, Suella Braverman, is said to have approved the scrapping of large parts of the Northern Ireland Brexit deal, according to reports.

The move comes as a leading US congressman Brendan Boyle branded the government’s plans to move away from a treaty it signed two years ago as a “very frustrating” and “counterproductive” pattern that is causing concern in Washington.

Braverman has advised that legislation to override the Northern Ireland protocol would be legal because the European Union’s implementation of it is “disproportionate and unreasonable”, the Times has reported.

In evidence to her findings, Braverman says the EU is undermining the Good Friday agreement by creating a trade barrier in the Irish Sea and fuelling civil unrest, the newspaper said.

The development echoes a major row 18 months ago within the Tory party after the Northern Ireland secretary, Brandon Lewis, unveiled plans to override parts of the protocol as part of draft internal market legislation.

Lewis claimed that the government’s legislation would break international law only “in a very specific and limited way” but the plans were ultimately abandoned.

Liz Truss, on Wednesday, rejected the EU’s proposals to resolve a standoff over post-Brexit trade rules for Northern Ireland, saying it would not shy away from taking direct action in a move Ireland said would trigger legal action by Brussels.

On Wednesday the Irish foreign minister, Simon Coveney, warned the EU would launch legal action and possibly impose countermeasures against Britain that could range from sanctions on goods such as Scottish salmon and whisky to suspension of the entire trade deal negotiated by former Brexit minister Lord Frost.

The threats by the UK government to introduce a law to disapply parts of the protocol which, if implemented in full, would mean physical and customs checks on food and some other goods, is already causing a rift within the Tory party and with EU leaders.

Between 30 and 50 Conservative MPs canvassed by colleagues said they had significant doubts about whether they could vote for a bill that would unpick an international treaty. Most dismissed the prospect of the bill’s success and described it as a negotiating tactic.

Senior MPs warned there were a number of ministers prepared to resign if faced with passing the bill into law. Sources close to Truss have stressed that no final decision has been made and that any potential legislation is intended to run in parallel with further talks.

Coveney said a briefing by Truss to the press on Wednesday had gone down “very badly” within Europe.

The UK is also coming under pressure from the US to drop its antagonistic approach in the wake of the election in Northern Ireland.

Democratic party congressman, Mr Boyle, said the UK should listen to the majority of people in Northern Ireland who, he said, did not vote for the protocol to be abandoned.

“Ever since almost the moment that Boris Johnson and David Frost negotiated the Northern Ireland protocol and signed it, it seems as if every other month or so, they’re threatening to rip it up and unilaterally walk away, so it is a very frustrating cycle that we’ve had to deal with over the last several years, completely counterproductive, and not in accordance with the expressed wishes of the majority of Northern Ireland.

“Literally two days ago, the people of Northern Ireland elected pro-protocol parties and candidates by a margin of 60% to 40%, right? So I think we should actually listen to the overwhelming majority of people in Northern Ireland,” he said.

The Northern Ireland minister, Conor Burns, styled under a new title of special representative to the US on the NI protocol, was dispatched to Washington this week to speak to senior US figures about the negotiations.

Boyle said the UK embassy had asked on Wednesday for him to meet Burns.

But it was unclear whether a meeting could be arranged in time. He was sceptical of the need for changes to the protocol.


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