Britain demands that the European Union re-negotiate post-Brexit trading arrangements
The U.K. government on Wednesday demanded the EU re-negotiate post-Brexit trading arrangements for Northern Ireland after rioting and business disruption hit the restive province.
The European Union has long insisted that it is up to London to implement what it agreed in their drawn-out Brexit divorce, and the U.S. administration is also looking on warily at the U.K. manoeuvres.
London stopped short of suspending the so-called Northern Ireland Protocol, which requires checks on goods crossing over from mainland Britain.
But Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis told Parliament that while the U.K. had negotiated the protocol “in good faith”, its real-world application by the EU had entailed “considerable and continuing burdens”.
“Put simply, we cannot go on as we are,” he said.
Rather than ad-hoc grace periods for border checks, Mr. Lewis said the U.K. was seeking a “standstill period” for the protocol, including legal action by the EU.
He pressed for a new dialogue “that deals with the problems in the round”.
“We urge the EU to look at it with fresh eyes and work with us to seize this opportunity and put our relations on a better footing.”
The protocol was painstakingly negotiated to avoid a hard border with Ireland, by effectively keeping Northern Ireland in the EU’s single market.
Northern Ireland, which suffered three decades of sectarian conflict until a peace agreement in 1998, has been rocked by violence this year, in part against the protocol.
Many pro-UK unionists see it as creating a de facto border in the Irish Sea with mainland Britain and say they feel betrayed.
In its proposals, Britain urged the EU to stop broad checks and focus more squarely on goods “genuinely” at risk of entering its single market via Northern Ireland.
The government insisted that for all other goods, a light touch was needed to preserve Northern Ireland’s integral status as part of the U.K.
It also wants the removal of any oversight role by the European Court of Justice.
Frustrated at the new red tape since the U.K. left the EU fully at the start of this year, several U.K. companies have already suspended sales to Northern Ireland, or are offering a reduced choice.
In a phone call Tuesday, Prime Minister Boris Johnson told Irish counterpart Micheal Martin the protocol was “causing significant disruption” and changes were essential, according to Downing Street.