LONDON ( Associated Press) – Britain is intensifying a dispute with the European Union over plans to scrap parts of a post-Brexit trade deal.
Legislation to rewrite business rules for Northern Ireland is set for its first major House of Commons debate on Monday, the first step in what could be a rocky journey through parliament.
The law, if approved by MPs, would remove the bar on goods entering Northern Ireland from the rest of Britain, thereby eliminating parts of a trade treaty upon which Prime Minister Boris Johnson agreed to the UK. It was signed before leaving the European Union in 2020.
The British government says the rules are burdening businesses and undermining peace in Northern Ireland. It argues that a unilateral move is justified under international law because of a “truly extraordinary situation”.
Northern Ireland Secretary of State Brandon Lewis said on Sunday it was aimed at “fixing” rather than scrapping the trade agreement known as the Northern Ireland Protocol.
Johnson’s opponents, however, say the move is illegal and will affect Britain’s international reputation. It is also raising concerns among some of the prime minister’s fellow conservatives, who are already concerned about Johnson’s decision to sway — and popularity — after a series of ethics scandals and two particular electoral defeats.
The European Union has threatened retaliation, raising fears of a trade war between the two major economic partners.
The bloc’s ambassador to Britain, Joo Valle de Almeida, said Britain’s plan was “illegal because it violates international law, EU law, UK law and international law.”
“It’s a treaty that we signed, ratified and even held general elections in this country,” he told Times Radio.
Northern Ireland is the only part of the UK that shares a border with the EU country of Ireland. When Britain left the European Union and its borderless free-trade zone, both sides agreed to keep the Irish land border free of customs checks and other checks because an open border is a key pillar of the peace process that has led to the North Ended decades of violence. Ireland.
Instead, to protect the EU’s single market, certain goods, such as meat and eggs, are barred from entering Northern Ireland from the rest of the UK.
Johnson’s Conservative government claims that over-implementation of the EU has meant rules are not working as expected and is causing a political crisis in Northern Ireland.
British federalists there say the Czechs are tearing the bond between Northern Ireland and the rest of Britain, which some unionists see as a threat to their British identity. Northern Ireland’s main federalist party is blocking the formation of a new power-sharing government in Belfast, saying it will not participate until Brexit trade rules are in place.
“I’d like to see the Northern Ireland Assembly and Executive reinstated, and protocol coming its way,” Lewis told Sky News. “We have to address this. That’s what this law will do.
“Ultimately, we want to do this by agreement with the European Union,” he said. “But to do that, they need to show some flexibility and really come and interact in a flexible way.”
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