Boris Johnson Says NI Protocol Issues Getting More 'Acute', Vows to 'Fix' Them One Way or Another
19:31 GMT 22.04.2022 (Updated: 15:19 GMT 28.05.2023)
The row over the status of Northern Ireland following Brexit have long complicated the relations between the UK and the EU. Downing Street's attempts to solve the issue through the terms of the withdrawal agreement have caused frictions with Brussels.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has vowed to take action to fix the Northern Ireland Protocol if ongoing talks with the EU do not bear fruit.
Johnson lashed out at the current state of the protocol, which limits the flow of British goods into the Northern Ireland while keeping the six counties in the European Union's Common Market.
He stressed that the protocol lacked support of the Northern Irish community and that problems with it continue to mount.
"Because of what is happening, I think it's fair to say the Protocol really does not command the confidence of a large, large component of the population in Northern Ireland. We have to address that, we have to fix that - the very substantial diversions of trade. It's going on and it's getting more acute, we have to fix that and we can", Johnson said.
The prime minister claimed that the UK can fix the existing issues with "some very simple and reasonable steps" — without going into details.
When asked at a press conference on his official visit to India whether media reports that he sought to grant the cabinet powers to "switch off" the protocol were true, Johnson said he would not "rule out taking further steps if that's necessary". He stressed that it was his stance all along, but did not elaborate on what action he would take.
According to the Financial Times, the UK government is preparing legislation that will give ministers unilateral powers to tear up key parts of the Northern Ireland protocol, including border checks on goods travelling to Northern Ireland from Great Britain.
21 December 2021, 10:37 GMT
The newspaper noted that the plans were being prepared in anticipation of a possible crisis in Northern Ireland, should Unionist parties refuse to enter the customary power-sharing government with republicans Sinn Fein after the 5 May elections to the Stormont assembly.
Unionists strongly oppose the provisions of the Protocol, a supposedly a temporary solution to ease passage of the Brexit withdrawal agreement.
The byzantine trade arrangements, which erected a customs barrier between Northern Ireland and the mainland UK, were touted as the alternative to imposing a "hard border" between the north and the Republic of Ireland. Republicans argued that a hard border would breach provisions of the Good Friday Agreement guaranteeing free movement within the island of Ireland.
UK and Irish citizens can already travel freely between the two states and live and work indefinitely without a visa under the bilateral Common Travel Area agreements dating back a century to the partition of Ireland after independence.
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