The Vice President of the European Commission Maros Sefcovic has warned the Government of Boris Johnson that a unilateral renunciation of the Irish Protocol, the most controversial point of the Brexit agreement, would be “simply not accepted” by Brussels, would undermine the relationship with the EU and would compromise peace in Ulster.
Sefcovic held a telephone conversation this Thursday with the Foreign Secretary, Liz Truss, who warned that London may have no other option than to “alter” the Protocol at its own risk, given the complex political situation created in Northern Ireland after the recent Sinn Féin’s electoral victory and the resignation of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) to participate in a “shared government” (as long as the controversial legal text remains in force).
The Johnson Government could announce its partial resignation from the Ireland Protocol before next Tuesday, despite the warning launched by former Prime Minister Theresa May, alleging the damage it would cause to the reputation of the United Kingdom for breaching international treaties.
To justify his action (although in Brussels they suspect that it could be a new “bluff” by London), the “premier” intends to rely on the report prepared by the attorney general Suella Braverman, blaming the EU for a “disproportionate and unreasonable” application of the protocol…
The Irish Foreign Secretary, Simon Coveney, however, has warned Johnson that the unilateral decision could end up in court and that the undesirable result could be a deterioration in relations between London and Dublin and even a trade war with the EU in midst of the conflict in Ukraine.
Washington has also expressed its opposition to a unilateral resignation. Democratic congressman Brendan Boyle has warned that it would be “a very frustrating and counterproductive decision.” The US committee for the protection of the Good Friday Peace Agreement has also warned that it would be a “neither strategic nor prudent” measure.
In his talk with Liz Truss, Maros Sefcovic made it clear that renouncing the Protocol would be equivalent to “suspending an international agreement” and “would compromise the objective of protecting the Peace Agreement in all its dimensions.” Truss argued for his part that the defense of the peace agreement is precisely what can lead the United Kingdom to act and called for more “pragmatism” from the vice president of the European Commission, with the implementation of measures such as “the red and green channels ” for the movement of goods between Great Britain and Northern Ireland, a shared data system and other measures to “remove barriers”.
“The current situation is unacceptable and creating a disruption to trade,” Truss said. “People in Northern Ireland are not being treated in the same way as the rest of the British people and this has become an internal UK peace and security issue.”
The main instigator of the renunciation of the Protocol is the leader of the DUP Jeffrey Donaldson, who despite having lost the elections has launched his particular order to the Johnson Government. Donaldson argues that the current agreement is equivalent to the creation of an internal customs office in the United Kingdom and has resulted in a disruption to trade and an increase in prices for consumers.
The local leader of Sinn Féin and chief minister in the making, Michelle O’Neill, has however broken a spear for the “permanence” of the Protocol as a guarantee that there will not be a return to the “hard” border between the two Irelands. ONeill has appealed to London and Brussels to return to the negotiating table and in any case find a way to “soften” its implementation.
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