After months of deadlock, the British government took action on Monday by presenting its bill to Parliament, which calls into question the post-Brexit status of Northern Ireland, at the risk of retaliation from Europeans who judge the illegal text.
The publication of the text, which London says does not violate international law, launches a parliamentary process that is expected to take weeks or even months and, if adopted, will result in a significant revision of the negotiated and signed Northern Ireland Protocol. by the government of Boris Johnson at the time of the United Kingdom’s exit from the European Union.
An action that “harms mutual trust”
The European Commission reacted on Monday night by threatening the British government with legal action. “It is with great concern that we take note of the decision taken today by the British Government to table a bill repealing key elements of the protocol. Unilateral action is detrimental to mutual trust, ”said Vice President Maros Sefcovic. He mentioned the prospect of resuming infringement proceedings against London in March 2021 – which could lead to a European court seizure – and taking new action.
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London believes it can no longer wait due to the political paralysis caused by the Northern Ireland protocol in the British province. After threatening to go beyond the international treaty it negotiated and signed, the Boris Johnson government has chosen to legislate to unilaterally amend it.
“We are very clear that we are acting legally,” Foreign Minister Liz Truss said on television. If passed, which could take months, the text “will put an end to this untenable situation where the people of Northern Ireland are treated differently from the rest of the UK, will protect the supremacy of our courts and our territorial integrity, ”she said in a statement, calling for a“ reasonable solution ”.
She reiterated that London remained open to a negotiated solution, but on the condition that the EU agreed to “change the protocol” and not just arrange it as it is now.
The protocol aims to protect the European single market after Brexit without causing the return of a physical demarcation between the British province and the Republic of Ireland, a member of the European Union, which could jeopardize peace.
To resolve this squaring of the circle, the Boris Johnson government had agreed that Northern Ireland would remain de facto within the European market, establishing a customs border in the Irish Sea, with controls and paperwork.
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