UNITED KINGDOM: Rishi Sunak’s efforts to break the impasse over Northern Ireland’s post-Brexit deal have been dealt a blow by Boris Johnson.
A source close to Johnson said that the former premier thought dropping the Northern Ireland Protocol Bill, which would give the UK the authority to unilaterally scrap portions of the treaty, would be a “grave mistake.”
After weeks of tense talks between the UK and EU, momentum has been building towards a reform of the Northern Ireland Protocol—the arrangements established to prevent a hard border with Ireland when the UK left the EU in 2020.
The talks have been held in secret since relations between the two parties significantly improved under Rishi Sunak, but no deal has yet been reached.
As per Boris Johnson and some other Tory members, a successful arrangement would let the UK government unilaterally renege on a number of regional Brexit accords.
Keeping the Northern Ireland protocol bill, introduced by Johnson’s administration and presently making its way through parliament, appears to have turned into a major test for the former premier.
However, the need for such a measure would be unnecessary if the UK could overcome its differences with the EU. According to sources close to Boris Johnson, the Northern Ireland protocol bill should not be dropped.
Rishi Sunak might also encounter backlash from certain pro-Brexit Tory MPs if the PM secures the pact with the support of the opposition. Labour leader Mark Starmer has urged Sunak to “sidestep” conservative Tory MPs since the situation has dragged on for too long.
The pact would involve isolating items from Great Britain that are remaining in Northern Ireland and making sure they do not have to go through normal checks, according to the report. However, specifics of the agreement have not yet been made public.
Northern Ireland Protocol
The trade agreement was approved to guarantee the unhindered flow of goods across the Irish land border after Brexit. Since it was enacted in 2021, items being transported from the United Kingdom to Northern Ireland have been subject to inspection.
Unionist parties contend that establishing a functional trade border across the Irish Sea would jeopardise Northern Ireland’s status as a member of the UK. The largest of these groups is the DUP, which is stalling participation in the power-sharing government in Northern Ireland until its issues are addressed.
But most of the Stormont Assembly members support keeping the protocol in place in some capacity. Improvements to the protocol are required, as per Sinn Féin, the Alliance Party, and the SDLP, to make it easier to implement.
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