LONDON (AP) – The British Foreign Secretary warned the European Union on Thursday that the UK would have no choice but to act to repeal part of the Brexit agreement on Northern Ireland if the EU does not show flexibility.
Arrangements for border and customs checks in Northern Ireland after Brexit have become the “biggest obstacle” to forming a new government in Belfast, said Foreign Minister Liz Trass during a conversation with European Commission Vice President Marash Shefkovich.
Border issues between Northern Ireland, which is part of the United Kingdom, and Ireland, which is part of the EU, have long posed the most acute problems in the UK’s divorce from the EU.
They reappeared after the Democratic Unionist Party this week refused to help form a government that shares power with the Irish nationalist Sinn Fein party, if post-Brexit agreements are not substantially changed or repealed.
The open Irish border is a key part of the peace process that ended decades of violence in Northern Ireland, which is the only part of the UK that has a border with the EU. The EU and the UK have agreed to leave the Irish border without customs posts and other checks after Brexit, which became final in late 2020.
Instead, there are checks on certain goods such as meat and eggs coming to Northern Ireland from other parts of the UK.
Trass’s office said Shefkovic had reiterated to her on Thursday that “there is no room to expand the EU’s negotiating mandate or make new proposals to reduce the overall level of trade friction.”
“The Foreign Minister noted this with regret and said that the situation in Northern Ireland is a matter of internal peace and security for the United Kingdom,” the Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
“If the EU does not show the necessary flexibility to help resolve these issues, we, as the responsible government, will have no choice but to act,” the statement said.
Tensions over the rules of trade, known as the Northern Ireland Protocol, were growing even before Northern Ireland held parliamentary elections last weekend.
Northern Ireland has been without an incumbent government since February, when then-DUP leader Paul Givan resigned as prime minister in protest of trade rules.
UK officials have repeatedly warned that they could unilaterally suspend the agreement if the EU does not agree to major changes.
British media report that British Prime Minister Boris Johnson may announce next week that his government will pass a law repealing parts of the Northern Ireland agreement.
The Times reported on Thursday that UK Attorney General Suela Breverman had issued a parade saying the move would be legal because the EU is undermining Northern Ireland’s peace deal on Good Friday by creating a trade barrier in the Irish Sea.
Any move by the UK to unilaterally rewrite the rules will lead to EU lawsuits that could escalate into a trade war.
“I am convinced that only joint solutions will work. Unilateral actions that do not actually apply such an international agreement as the protocol are simply unacceptable, ”EU chief negotiator Shefkovich said after a call on Thursday.
Suggest a fix