PM: Proposals could be law by end of year
Boris Johnson has signalled that his plan to effectively tear up parts of the Northern Ireland Protocol could be law by the end of the year.
The prime minister, who is attending the G7 summit in Germany alongside EU leaders, said “the interesting thing is how little this conversation is being had, certainly here” – indicating he is not expecting a major diplomatic row over the government’s plans.
Mr Johnson said the plan could be carried out “fairly rapidly”, with the proposals in law by the end of the year.
His administration has argued that the measures to remove checks on goods and animal and plant products travelling from Great Britain to Northern Ireland are necessary to safeguard the Good Friday Agreement and peace and stability.
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“What we are trying to do is fix something that I think is very important to our country, which is the balance of the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement,” he told reporters.
“You have got one tradition, one community, that feels that things really aren’t working in a way that they like or understand, you’ve got unnecessary barriers to trade between Great Britain and Northern Ireland.
“All we are saying is you can get rid of those whilst not in any way endangering the EU single market.”
Asked if the measures could be in place this year, he said: “Yes, I think we could do it very fast, Parliament willing.”
He said it would be “even better” if we could “get some of that flexibility we need in our conversations with Maros Sefcovic”, the European Commission vice-president,
He added: “We remain optimistic.”
The UK has insisted that its unilateral approach is the only option left to resolve the issues “baked in” to the protocol if the EU maintains its refusal fundamentally to rewrite the terms of the deal.
But the move has sparked a fierce backlash from the bloc, with fresh legal action launched against Britain last week.
Mr Sefcovic indicated that further measures could follow if the UK presses ahead with the bill.
The dispute could ultimately lead to a trade war, with tariffs or even the suspension of the entire Brexit deal between the UK and EU.