The European Union’s chief Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, has warned EU ambassodors that should the UK government attempt to circumvent the Northern Ireland Protocol contained in the Withdrawal Agreement a second time it would send Brexit talks between the EU and the UK into a “crisis”.
“The EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier has told EU ambassadors that if the UK Finance Bill, expected next week, contains clauses that breach international law [ie, that breach the NI Protocol] then the Brexit talks will be ‘in crisis’ and there will be a breakdown in trust,” said RTE’s Europe Editor, Tony Connelly.
The issue was raised by Sinn Fein MLA, Martina Anderson, at a meeting of the committee in Stormont on Wednesday afternoon.
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“We might need to take some action and ask for information if that is the case,” said the MLA for Foyle.
“If they [UK government] intend to breach international law again and overturn the NI protocol again then you are going to see the talks, which are due to end this week, in crisis.”
The Northern Ireland Protocol is contained within the Withdrawal Agreement - an agreement negotiated, signed and ratified by British prime minister, Boris Johnson and Conservative MPs.
Ms. Anderson admitted that while the committee’s concern might not come to pass she thought it better to be safe than sorry and writing to the British government the responsible thing to do.
In addition to writing to Mr. Gove, the committee also agreed to flag the issue up with First Minister, Arlene Foster and deputy First Minister, Michelle O’Neill.
“We should write to the British government expressing our concerns,” said Ms. Anderson.
“It might all be speculation at this stage but if what is being reported is true we will need information before we go over a cliff at the end of the month,” she added.
The UK officially left the EU on January 31, 2020 but both sides agreed to a transition period which officially ends on December 31, 2020.