Boris Johnson to vote against Northern Ireland post-Brexit rules deal

Boris Johnson in London, March 21, 2023. HENRY NICHOLLS / REUTERS

The former Prime Minister renewed his opposition to the agreement concluded between London and Brussels on Wednesday.

Former Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Wednesday that he will oppose the agreement reached between London and Brussels on trade rules in Northern Ireland, on which a vote is scheduled for Wednesday in Parliament, and which is causing divisions among the conservatives. “This is unacceptable. I will vote against the proposed arrangements“said Boris Johnson in a press release published Wednesday morning, a few hours before the vote, but also before his hearing by a commission of inquiry into the scandals of the parties organized in Downing Street during the Covid-19 pandemic.

British MPs will vote on one of the elements of this agreement, called “Windsor frameand signed in early March between new Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen. This is a measure, called “stormont brakeof the name of the building housing the Northern Irish parliament, allowing the deputies of the province to block the application of new trade rules voted in Brussels, and likely to apply in Northern Ireland.

The proposed arrangements would either mean that Northern Ireland remains captive to EU rules – and thus gradually diverge from the rest of the UK – or they would mean that the whole of the UK is unable to properly emancipate itself (from the EU) and benefit from Brexit“, Criticized Boris Johnson. And he urged the government to adopt the law he himself had defended to unilaterally withdraw the United Kingdom from the protocol signed with Brussels and governing the status of Northern Ireland.

Expected outcome of the vote

The outcome of the vote promises to be without real surprise, with the majority of the Conservatives and the Labor opposition expected to vote in favor of the text, but it reignites the wick of divisions within the Conservative party on how to make Brexit a reality. A group of Conservative MPs, united in the European Research Group (ERG), criticized the “stormont brake“, believing that it would be”in practice unusable“.

They regretthat no EU laws are (…) abolished in Northern Ireland contrary to what has been declared” the government. This dozen eurosceptic deputies, once very influential but whose weight has faded within the Tories, have not yet decided whether they will oppose the text or abstain in the vote. This agreement is also criticized in Northern Ireland by the unionists of the DUP, whose party has paralyzed local institutions for almost a year to oppose the post-Brexit status of the province. Its eight members of the British Parliament have already said they would vote against the text.

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