Due to disruptions in trade between the province and the rest of the UK, London wants to renegotiate in depth the Northern Ireland protocol concluded with the EU.
The British government is due to clarify its intentions on Tuesday, May 17, regarding Northern Ireland, amid tensions with the European Union over post-Brexit checks that have sparked a crisis in the province. Due to the political impasse in Northern Ireland and the interruption of trade between the province and the rest of the United Kingdom, London wants to renegotiate in depth the Northern Ireland protocol concluded with the European Union, which only says it is ready for adjustments.
Having raised the threat of unilateral action to circumvent the agreement, the British government must expose its “reasoning” Tuesday, according to Downing Street, through the voice of its diplomat Liz Truss. According to British media, this could take the form of a bill that would allow the government to unilaterally suspend parts of the Northern Ireland protocol invoking its Article 16. Passing it would take weeks and set the stage for a long period of crisis between the EU. and London, but also in Northern Ireland.
For the EU, knowingly returning to this signed treaty would amount to violating international law, and the UK would expose itself to severe trade retaliation. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the government did not want “delete” the protocol, but the “To repair”. He stated that “would” that tensions are resolved “in a consensual way with our friends and partners” of the EU, but added that the UK also needs “safe” on one “legislative solution at the same time”. The Conservative leader was speaking during a visit to Northern Ireland on Monday, where he tried to convince the various political formations to find a compromise and “back to work”.
Because eleven days after the historic victory of Sinn Fein Republicans in local elections, Northern Ireland’s institutions are at a standstill. DUP unionists refused to participate in the local executive, which was supposed to be shared under the 1998 peace accord that ended three decades of bloody conflict known as the “Troubles”. And they blocked the local Assembly by refusing to nominate a new candidate.
Viscerally linked to the union with Great Britain, trade unionists thus intend to protest against the Northern Ireland protocol, the agreement signed between London and Brussels to respond to the delicate question of the border between British Northern Ireland and the European Republic of Ireland after the Brexit. This text creates a de facto customs border with Great Britain and threatens, they say, the province’s place within the United Kingdom.
At the center of the political impasse, the leader of the DUP trade union party, Jeffrey Donaldson, calls for “acts” of the British government to resolve issues affecting Northern Ireland’s economy and relations with Great Britain. “I want to see the government enact legislation that provides the solution we need”, said Jeffrey Donaldson on Monday. Sinn Fein Republicans strongly oppose a bill that would suspend parts of the protocol. “We told him directly that a unilateral bill in Westminster is wrong”Sinn Fein president Mary Lou McDonald said Monday after a meeting she described as“quite difficult” with Boris Johnson.
Northern Ireland institutions had already experienced three years of shutdown, against the backdrop of a financial scandal, before a deal allowed them to be restored in January 2020. Northern Ireland’s neighbour, the Republic of Ireland, a member of the EU, is concerned about the consequences of a possible unilateral British decision. After a phone call with European Council President Charles Michel, Irish Prime Minister Micheál Martin said on Monday that the two men “agreed that the only way to advance the protocol is through substantive negotiations between the EU and the UK”. “Any unilateral action is harmful and cannot help” he tweeted.