United Kingdom

Boris Johnson issues Northern Ireland Brexit warning to the EU

Boris Johnson today warned the EU the UK Government will take the 'necessary steps' to reduce trade friction with Northern Ireland unless Brussels agrees to compromise on post-Brexit border rules.  

The Prime Minister repeated his threat to tear up elements of the Northern Ireland Protocol if the bloc refuses to budge. 

Mr Johnson told MPs at PMQs: 'I can say that unless we see progress on the implementation of the protocol, which I think is currently totally disproportionate, then we will have to take the necessary steps.' 

The Cabinet Office minister said the UK has put forward 'a lot of ideas' on how post-Brexit border checks could be smoothed and improved. 

But he said Britain is struggling to get much 'traction' from Brussels on the proposals, with EU chiefs not giving 'very much back to help move these discussions forward'. 

Lord Frost admitted the measures floated by the UK would not 'totally eliminate' disruption to trade from Great Britain to Northern Ireland but he insisted they would make a 'big difference'. 

The UK and the EU remain locked in talks as they try to remedy issues with the protocol which has inflamed community tensions in Northern Ireland. 

Boris Johnson today warned the EU the UK will take the 'necessary steps' to reduce trade friction with Northern Ireland unless Brussels agrees to compromise on post-Brexit border rules

The UK and the EU remain locked in talks as they try to remedy issues with the protocol which has inflamed community tensions in Northern Ireland 

The protocol, agreed as part of the Brexit divorce deal, requires checks on goods travelling from GB to Northern Ireland to be carried out at ports in order to avoid the return of a land border with the Republic. 

But it has caused disruption to trade and angered unionists who have demanded the rules be scrapped, arguing they create a barrier between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK. 

Mr Johnson has repeatedly threatened to trigger Article 16 of the protocol to unilaterally ditch some of the rules if the two sides cannot agree a way forward. 

Lord Frost told the Northern Ireland Affairs Select Committee this morning that at a 'minimum' the UK wants to see trade return to a 'much more free-flowing' state. 

But he suggested the EU is refusing to play ball with the ideas put forward by British negotiators.

He told the committee: ‘I think what we would like to see I think at a minimum is that the GB-NI movements of goods could work in a much more free-flowing, open way that is much more commensurate with the degree of risk of goods ending up in the EU’s single market.

‘We think that risk is quite low. We have proposed various ideas... which would all we think make a big difference to that even though it wouldn’t totally eliminate the problem.

‘But we think it would make it a lot easier to work. We haven’t had a lot of feedback from that.’

He continued: ‘Our position is we would like to find negotiated agreements that bring it back to the sort of light touch agreements that we thought we were agreeing and one that is consistent with protecting the EU single market and all the other purposes of the protocol.

‘Our frustration and the frustration that comes out of some of the comments is that we are not getting a lot of traction and we feel we have put in a lot of ideas and we haven’t had very much back to help move these discussions forward and meanwhile… time is running out.’

Asked about the PM's threat of triggering Article 16 of the protocol, Lord Frost said: ‘All options remain on the table as regards steps forward and obviously we would prefer to find negotiated ways forward if we can.

‘If that is not possible obviously other options remain on the table as the PM said over the weekend.’

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