Britain challenges EU with ‘relatively trivial’ Northern Ireland law

  • The UK will introduce legislation on Monday
  • The risk of triggering a trade dispute with the European Union moves
  • EU says unilateral action would violate international law
  • Ireland accuses the UK of a new decline

LONDON (Reuters) – Britain will draw up plans on Monday to scrap some post-Brexit trade rules for Northern Ireland, scrap checks and challenge Brussels’ role in a fresh standoff with the European Union.

As Ireland warned of a “new low” from London and Brussels spoke of damaging confidence, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson vowed to move forward, saying “relatively trivial” steps were needed to improve trade and streamline bureaucracy.

Tensions have been rising for months after Britain accused the bloc of taking a heavy-handed approach to the movement of goods between Britain and Northern Ireland – checks that were necessary to keep an open border with EU member Ireland.

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Always the hardest part of the Brexit deal, the situation in the region has sent alarm bells ringing in European capitals and Washington, and among business leaders.

It also heightened political tensions, with pro-British communities saying their place in the UK was eroding.

The power-sharing administration collapsed and the DUP said it would not return to Parliament unless it was assured that the bill would become law. Read more

The new legislation comes as the UK faces its toughest economic conditions in decades, with inflation expected to reach 10% and growth stalling. Johnson said any talk of a retaliatory trade war by Brussels would be a “grossly overreaction”.

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“All we’re trying to do is some bureaucratic simplification between Great Britain and Northern Ireland,” he told LBC Radio.

new clash

Britain had been threatening for months to tear up the Protocol, an agreement that kept the region under EU rules and imposed an effective customs border between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK to prevent a backdoor from opening into the EU’s broad single market. .

Under the legislation, London is expected to offer a “green channel” for goods moving only from Britain to Northern Ireland, change tax rules and end the role of the European Court of Justice as the sole arbiter.

The bill, which Secretary of State Liz Truss will introduce to Parliament, could take up to a year to pass. It comes as Johnson seeks to recover from a major rebellion against his leadership by winning back the support of lawmakers, including those who want a hard line against Brussels.

The legislation, like Brexit itself, has divided legal and political opinion, with proponents of a UK divorce saying it does not go far enough, and critics saying it undermines London’s standing in the world by challenging an international agreement.

Truss told European Commission Vice President Maros Sefcovic that London remained open to a “negotiated solution”. He said that any unilateral action was detrimental to trust. Read more

Brussels believes that any unilateral change would violate international law. It could start legal proceedings or eventually review the terms of the free trade agreement it agreed with Britain.

EU officials have said Britain will not be allowed to join the €95 billion Horizon Europe research program until outstanding disputes, in particular Northern Ireland, are resolved.

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US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi also said there would be no US-UK trade deal if London scrapped the protocol.

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Additional reporting by Paul Sandell, Andrew McCaskill and Kylie McClellan. Editing by Louise Heavens, Mark Potter and Ed Osmond

Our criteria: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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