Premier Johnson under pressure
Northern Ireland protocol at risk – EU warns London
May 10, 2022, 6:35 p.m
The Brexit agreement between the EU and the UK stipulates that the movement of goods between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK must be controlled. This avoids controls at the internal border with Ireland. But the agreement is threatened.
Tension is rising in the dispute over Brexit special rules for Northern Ireland. Chancellor Olaf Scholz warns the British government against terminating the agreement. “We have found a good way for Northern Ireland. And nobody should unilaterally override, break or deal with the arrangement that we have agreed with each other in any other way,” said the SPD politician after a meeting with Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo in Berlin. It is a complicated issue that not only concerns EU-UK relations, but also peaceful development in the region. “I think these are good regulations that have been agreed with one another.”
Similarly, De Croo said: “If this agreement were to be revoked, then I believe the whole system would be revoked.” The Irish government in Dublin also addressed warning words to British Prime Minister Boris Johnson. Deputy Prime Minister Leo Varadkar told Irish broadcaster RTÉ that it was an international contract. London must meet its obligations. The Chair of the Internal Market Committee in the EU Parliament, Anna Cavazzini, said breaking the agreement went against the wishes of the people in the British provinces.
As the newspaper “Times” reported, London wants to override the agreement known as the Northern Ireland Protocol in the Brexit Agreement. Secretary of State Liz Truss no longer sees any point in negotiations with the EU, the paper wrote. Rather, she wants to lift all goods controls between Great Britain and Northern Ireland. So far there has been no confirmation of this. In the event of a unilateral termination, observers fear a bitter trade war between London and Brussels.
“For Johnson, the continued escalation of the tariff dispute with the EU is a diversionary maneuver from his domestic political misery after party scandals and the poor performance of his party (in local elections),” said Cavazzini. She warned that the EU should “not fall for this trick”. The Northern Ireland Protocol is intended to avoid controls at the border with the EU member Republic of Ireland and to prevent new conflicts between supporters and opponents of a unification of the two parts of Ireland. Goods must now be checked when they are brought from Great Britain to Northern Ireland. Union supporters fear it will lead to alienation.
Dispute hampers government formation in Belfast
A spokesman for Johnson said after a meeting between the prime minister and Irish Prime Minister Micheal Martin that the situation was very serious and endangered the peace agreement of 1998 known as the Good Friday Agreement. Johnson had signed the agreement himself and initially sold it as a great success. After his election victory at the end of 2019, however, he began to question the agreement. Last week’s elections to the Northern Ireland regional parliament showed that the protocol in its current form was unsustainable, his spokesman said. However, a majority of newly elected Northern Ireland MPs support the deal with the EU.
The dispute is also hampering government formation in the former civil war region. According to the Good Friday Agreement, the strongest parties in each of the two religious groups must agree on a unity government. The Protestant-unionist DUP only wants to work with the Catholic-Republican election winner, Sinn Fein, if the protocol is repealed.
Johnson intervened in the debate for the first time on Tuesday, phoning top politicians in Northern Ireland. DUP boss Jeffrey Donaldson then urged the British government to take decisive action. Words alone did not resolve the dispute, he said. Sinn Fein lead candidate Michelle O’Neill, on the other hand, urged Johnson to put pressure on the DUP. A government urgently needs to be formed, she tweeted. The people of Northern Ireland should not be used as a scapegoat for the dispute between London and Brussels.