Minister Brandon Lewis said on Sunday that Britain would unilaterally introduce legislation on Monday to eliminate some of the rules governing post-Brexit trade with Northern Ireland, not breaking international law.
“The legislation that we will outline tomorrow is within the law; what we are going to do is valid and it is right,” the Northern Ireland secretary told Sky News.
When Britain left the European Union, Prime Minister Boris Johnson agreed to a protocol, which called for the preservation of the open border with Ireland specified in the Good Friday Peace Agreement, as part of the European Union’s Single Market and Northern Ireland in the Customs Union. effectively abandoned.
Any unilateral move by London to abrogate the treaty would provoke a fiery argument with the EU.
Ireland’s Sinn Fein, the nationalist party that won a historic victory in the Northern Ireland assembly election last month, said on Sunday that Britain would “undoubtedly” break the law by unilaterally changing protocol.
Lewis said however that the protocol needed to be changed because it was “fundamentally undermining” the Good Friday Agreement.
He said it was disrupting people’s lives in Northern Ireland, blocking the functioning of government institutions, and not respecting Britain’s own internal market.
Lewis declined to say how the protocol would be changed, but said the government would determine the legal basis on which it was bringing the law.
Sinn Féin President Mary Lou McDonald said London could work with Dublin and Brussels to improve the protocol’s application.
“There is a willingness, by the European Commission, to engage, but the British government has refused to be involved,” she told Sky News from Dublin.
“It has not been constructive, it has sought a destructive path, and is now proposing to introduce legislation that would undoubtedly violate international law.”