Britain working on Northern Ireland trade after Brexit


calendar icon May 17 2022

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4 minutes to read

Britain will outline steps to tackle post-Brexit trade issues in Northern Ireland on Tuesday but will not introduce new law this week, Reuters reportedQuoting the Minister. The move could calm a row with the European Union that could threaten a trade war.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Monday the government needed a “lockdown” option to be able to bypass some trade rules after Britain’s unilateral exit from the European Union, warning that the dispute could undermine peace there.

Concluding a deal that keeps the peace in Northern Ireland and protects the EU’s single market without imposing a hard land border between the British Territory and EU member Ireland, or the border within the UK, has always been the biggest challenge for London as it embarks on it. out of the block.

Both sides have been trying for months to break the stalemate over the so-called Northern Ireland Protocol, which effectively created a customs border at sea between Northern Ireland and the rest of the United Kingdom.

London approved the new checks before it left the European Union but now says it is not viable.

Northern Ireland Minister Brandon Lewis said the government still wanted a negotiated solution with the EU, but would not rule out anything after discussing that the government could introduce a law that would “reject” parts of the protocol.

He told BBC Television: “We’ve always said we don’t take anything off the table. If we need to legislate, we won’t be shy about doing it.”

Lewis said senior ministers would meet to decide Britain’s next steps early on Tuesday after Johnson’s discussions with Northern Ireland’s political parties on Monday, before Foreign Secretary Liz Truss made a statement to Parliament.

But asked if Britain would introduce new legislation as soon as this week, Lewis told Sky News: “Something like this this week was not on the table at all.”

“Don’t be happy”

The European Union has repeatedly said that any trade difficulties must be resolved within the parameters of the protocol.

Ireland’s foreign minister, Simon Coveney, said last week that the EU would initiate legal action and possibly impose countermeasures if London took unilateral action.

EU Financial Services Commissioner Mered McGuinness, Ireland’s representative to the EU’s executive, said the bloc was a bit confused about what to expect.

She told Ireland’s RTE radio: “Boosting for this certainly wasn’t fun at all. I think there is now a difficulty in the relationships, which were strained anyway.”

“Any threats, hidden threats, or unilateral action does little to actually unlock the protocol’s potential. Political will is required, and I hope today we’ll see some semblance of that, not some very difficult unilateral action.”

Britain has postponed bringing in many of the checks expected by the protocol, which has stymied some food into routine at a time of soaring food and energy prices, adding to recession fears.

Lewis said Britain wanted products transported between Great Britain and Northern Ireland not to be subject to the same controls as those destined for the European Union.

“We believe there is a way to do that, as I said, to effectively provide that green lane for products that remain within the UK’s internal market,” he said.

Archie Norman, head of retail Marks & Spencer and a former Conservative MP, said the British government’s proposals were a “triumph of common sense”.

“What the British government is proposing at the moment seems to me a victory of common sense over a rule-based mindset and will make sure in a time of inflation that Northern Irish people can have the freshest food they are accustomed to,” Norman told BBC radio.

Johnson approved the protocol in 2019 to allow Britain to leave the EU’s single market and customs union without re-imposing border controls between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland, a vital part of the 1998 Good Friday deal that ended three decades. of violence.

But the de facto customs border between Britain and Northern Ireland, angered many pro-British trade unionists.

The result of the Northern Ireland regional elections increased pressure on Johnson to introduce changes to the protocol after unionists refused to join a new administration unless there were changes to trade rules.