United Kingdom

Boris Johnson could rip up UK's post-Brexit agreement with EU over Northern Ireland

Boris Johnson could be just weeks away from ripping up the UK's post-Brexit agreement with the EU over Northern Ireland to avoid an eruption of violence in the province's summer marching season.

Brexit Minister Lord Frost signals in the Mail on Sunday that if Brussels continues to insist on checks on goods arriving from the UK mainland, the Government could trigger Article 16 of the Northern Ireland Protocol to suspend the checks.

No 10 fears that unless it takes such action, unionist violence could flare during the July marching season in protest at an effective barrier down the Irish Sea.

Brexit Minister Lord Frost (pictured) has signalled if Brussels continues to insist on checks on goods arriving from the UK mainland, the Government could suspend the checks

Urging Brussels to 'stop the point-scoring and work with us', Lord Frost says the UK's 'European friends' did not appear to share our desire for 'free trade and friendly relations'. 

He writes: 'From the unfortunate attempt to put a hard border on the island of Ireland for vaccine exports, to the threats to cut off electricity to Jersey or to retaliate against our financial services, we haven't always heard much enthusiasm to make things work.'

Lord Frost says he saw the problems caused by EU checks at Belfast's Arcadia delicatessen, writing: 'Its shoppers have always been able to choose from a variety of goods… artisan jams, to pork pies, to Norfolk sausages, from all over the UK.'

But he warns suppliers in the rest of the UK are stopping deliveries to such stores as it is 'too difficult and too time-consuming to deal with the paperwork', leaving 'less choice for Northern Ireland consumers than in the rest of the UK'.

Lord Frost said he saw the problems caused by EU checks at Belfast's Arcadia delicatessen (pictured: owner Mark Brown) and warned suppliers are stopping deliveries to such stores

Article 16 gives the UK and the EU unilateral power to suspend parts of the Protocol if its application creates 'serious economic, societal or environmental difficulties that are liable to persist, or to diversion of trade'.

The EU is refusing to budge on the Protocol because it argues that it is a direct consequence of the Brexit Boris Johnson negotiated, and says that London should instead agree to align UK food standards with those of the EU. 

Under the Withdrawal Agreement, Northern Ireland observes EU rules on food.

Lord Frost warns: 'Protests have been occurring and political stability is at risk. Our overriding aim has always been to protect the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement. If the Protocol is not protecting it, it is not working. The EU has a responsibility here. 

'The Protocol is a shared UK-EU agreement. The EU needs, rapidly, to find a new approach and new solutions… if the Protocol operates so as to damage the political, social, or economic fabric of life in Northern Ireland.' 

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