The UK Government has insisted the Northern Ireland Protocol does not work in its current form. Because of the “urgency of the situation”, Foreign Secretary Liz Truss set out plans for a law which would allow ministers to make changes to its rules without the permission of the EU.
Brussels has signalled that if the Protocol is ripped up, it will respond by triggering a trade war and pursuing legal action against the UK.
EU Commission Vice President Maros Sefcovic, who is leading negotiations over the post-Brexit agreement for the bloc, stressed it “will need to respond with all measures at [our] disposal”.
Another person “familiar with the matter” has also told Bloomberg the bloc would likely suspend their trade agreement with the UK.
They added that separate talks over the status of Gibraltar could likewise be scrapped, despite London insisting the two issues are wholly unrelated.
Foreign policy analyst and former aide to Margaret Thatcher Nile Gardiner said the threats were akin to “madness”.
He contrasted the fact “the EU does huge volumes of business with enemies of the free world, including Russia, China and Iran, yet threatens a trade war with the UK”.
Mr Gardiner added that he didn’t believe Brussels would stand up to its threats, but was merely making noise to unsettle UK ministers.
He wrote: “This would be insane, and cost hundreds of thousands of jobs across EU.
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“In the past we have done all sorts of things to fix that. We need to address the problems with the Protocol.”
Boris Johnson added that the issues of the Protocol meant it needs to be changed in any case, noting the UK’s “higher duty” of protecting the Good Friday Agreement.
Laying out the issues of the Protocol to the House of Commons, Ms Truss highlighted frustration over the requirement for goods passing between Great Britain and Northern Ireland (that is, from one part of the UK to another) to undergo checks.
She said a “comprehensive and reasonable solution” had been put forward, noting that this would “meet both our and the EU’s original objectives”.
On checks, the Foreign Secretary has offered to provide Brussels with real-time commercial data, to give it “confidence” that goods entering Northern Ireland from Britain are not headed for the EU Single Market.
But she conceded that this could require changing the Protocol itself, which the EU appears unwilling to do.