Boris Johnson will promise not to abandon the Brexit deal governing Northern Ireland and instead support reform that enjoys the “widest possible cross-community support”, in a bid to ease tensions over the issue .
In a change of tone ahead of emergency talks in Belfast on Monday, the Prime Minister will make it clear he has no intention of scrapping the so-called Northern Ireland Protocol, which he says is significantly disrupting trade between Great Britain and Northern Ireland. .
Officials said Johnson intended to deliver a “tough message” to party leaders in Northern Ireland. He will implore them to “get back to work”, after the Democratic Unionists blocked the election of a president in the Stormont Assembly on Friday. Moving means the assembly is unable to function.
DUP leader Jeffrey Donaldson said his party’s decision was a protest at the impact the protocol was having on trade crossing the Irish Sea. These goods have a series of controls which have placed a de facto trade border between Great Britain and Northern Ireland. In an attempt to push the DUP to re-engage, Johnson will say any action by his government to change the protocol must lead to all parties coming together to form an executive and assembly.
But after threats from Foreign Secretary Liz Truss to override large parts of the protocol, the Prime Minister is expected to adopt a less strident tone. Johnson will tell Northern Ireland leaders next week that ‘we will always keep the door open for real dialogue’ but there will be ‘a need to act’ if the EU does not allow meaningful changes in how the protocol works in practice. Whitehall insiders also say any legislation on the matter is far from complete, and nothing has yet been presented to cabinet.
Johnson will clarify that the government has never suggested scrapping the protocol and that there will still need to be a treaty between the UK and the EU that prevents a hard border on the island of Ireland. It will also recognize the need to protect the integrity of the EU single market.
However, he will call for reforms to address trade issues which UK government figures show are jeopardizing the Good Friday Agreement. Critics say repeated threats to the protocol by British figures have caused far greater dangers to the landmark deal.
It comes as the United States takes a keen interest in the treatment of Northern Ireland. Last week, President Biden urged Johnson not to tear up the Northern Ireland protocol. A powerful delegation of US congressional representatives is also due to travel to London in a few days, in another sign of concern at the White House.
Johnson will claim there is “no cover-up that” the delicate balance of the Good Friday deal was upset by protocol. He will ask the UK and the EU to have a ‘common aim’ to ensure trade rules in Northern Ireland have the ‘widest possible cross-community support’ when faced with a consent vote in the EU. assembly of the region in 2024.
On Saturday, Labor accused the Prime Minister of trying to provoke a trade war with Brussels that would worsen the cost of living crisis already hitting households. David Lammy, the shadow secretary of state for foreign affairs, said the repeated slashes over Northern Ireland protocol came at the “worst possible time”.
“Instead of finding practical solutions, they are planning a trade war in a cost of living crisis,” Lammy told the centre-left Progressive Britain conference. “Making Brexit work takes governance, diligence and graft, not Boris Johnson’s wrecking ball. The people of Northern Ireland deserve responsible government, but instead, we have a prime minister who cannot be trusted and a government willing to break international law.
“And it happens at the worst possible time. Europe is facing the most serious security crisis in a generation. There is a war on our continent. Millions have fled their homes. Countries have united in support of Ukraine. It is wrong, myopic and misguided to seek divisions with our European allies as we face this common threat.