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London wants to modify the Northern Irish protocol, Dublin “regrets this decision”

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Despite the risk of reprisals from Europeans, the British government threatened on Tuesday to legislate in the coming weeks to reverse the post-Brexit controls which plunged Northern Ireland into a political crisis. The head of Irish diplomacy, Simon Coveney, expressed his deep regret over this decision by London.

The British government expressed, Tuesday, May 17, its intention to present in the coming weeks a bill modifying the “Northern Irish protocol”. An initiative that would de facto reverse part of the Brexit agreement and risk causing a new crisis with the European Union.

In a statement to Parliament, Britain’s Foreign Minister Liz Truss said the new law would make it easier to move goods between Britain and Northern Ireland and give London more power to enforce laws in force in the province.

“I deeply regret the decision of the British government,” Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney said in a statement on Tuesday. “Such unilateral actions in relation to a binding international agreement damage trust and will only serve to make it more difficult to find solutions to the real concerns” of the people of the province about the implementation of the protocol, he said. -he adds.

The Northern Ireland protocol has been a bone of contention between London and Brussels since British Prime Minister Boris Johnson signed it in 2019 to allow the deal to be finalized on Britain’s exit from the European Union.

Awakening of political tensions in Northern Ireland

This protocol provides for the introduction of customs controls on certain goods transiting from Great Britain to Northern Ireland, in order to prevent Brexit from leading to the re-establishment of a physical border with Ireland, which has remained in the EU.

But far from calming tensions, this device led to disruptions in the supply of Northern Ireland and awakened political tensions threatening the peace agreement of 1998, the pro-British unionists denouncing the establishment of a difference de facto between the province and the rest of the UK.

Liz Truss assured several times before the House of Commons on Tuesday that the bill prepared by the government would not call into question London’s international commitments, and that negotiations were continuing with Brussels to find a solution.

>> To read also: violence in Northern Ireland: “Brexit has destabilized an already fragile peace”

The EU has repeatedly warned against unilaterally challenging the protocol and European Commission Vice-President Maros Sefcovic, in charge of negotiations with London, said on Tuesday that such a move “raises significant concerns ” and would be “not acceptable”.

“If the UK decides to go ahead with a bill removing constituent parts of the protocol, as announced today (Tuesday) by the UK government, the EU will have to react with all means at his disposal,” warned Maros Sefcovic in a statement.

Pressure from Northern Irish Unionists

Part of the overhaul to the protocol that Liz Truss has mentioned would create a dual regulatory regime to ensure that goods sent to Northern Ireland and destined to remain there are not subject to unnecessary administrative burdens.

“The bill will remove regulatory barriers for goods made to British standards sold in Northern Ireland. Businesses will have the choice of complying with British or EU standards under a new dual regulatory regime,” the Commission said. head of British diplomacy. “He will continue to ensure that there is no physical border on the island of Ireland.”

The introduction of this bill responds to a request from Boris Johnson, who said on Monday that his government must have a form of “insurance” which can challenge parts of the Brexit agreement that are causing problems for him .

While acknowledging that the Northern Irish protocol poses difficulties, a Labor opposition spokesman for international issues, Stephen Doughty, said the UK must act calmly and responsibly. “It is deeply disturbing that the Foreign Secretary is introducing a bill apparently designed to break the treaty which the government itself signed just two years ago, which will not solve the problems in Northern Ireland for a long time. term, and that will rather undermine trust,” he said.

The result of the elections in Northern Ireland, where the Catholic nationalists of Sinn Fein, favorable to the reunification of Ireland, came out on top ten days ago, for the first time in the history of the province, accentuated pressure on Boris Johnson.

The Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), the main pro-British party, has made its participation in a power-sharing government, provided for in the Good Friday peace agreement, conditional on a modification of the Northern Irish protocol. Its leader, Jeffrey Donaldson, said Tuesday that Liz Truss’s proposal was going in the right direction, but he said he was waiting to decide definitively that it would translate into concrete and rapid action. “We don’t want any more borders in the Irish Sea,” he warned.

With Reuters

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