UK Government demands 'significant changes' to Northern Ireland protocol negotiated by Boris Johnson

The UK Government is demanding “significant changes” to the Northern Ireland protocol that Boris Johnson negotiated.

“Significant” changes to Northern Ireland’s post-Brexit trading arrangements are being demanded by the UK, but the government has held back from tearing up parts of the deal.

Brexit minister Lord Frost has warned “we cannot go on as we are” and claimed the protocol in its existing form was causing economic and societal damage.

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Signed by Mr Johnson and negotiated by him along with Lord Frost, the protocol effectively keeps Northern Ireland in the European Union’s single market for goods.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson want to renegotiate the deal he struck with Brussels.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson want to renegotiate the deal he struck with Brussels.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson want to renegotiate the deal he struck with Brussels.

Amid growing issues around checks on goods, the UK Government has now published a Command Paper setting out plans to negotiate significant changes.

Lord Frost, Minister of State at the Cabinet Office, said: “The protocol has failed to deliver on some of its core objectives and we cannot ignore the political, societal and economic difficulties this continues to create in Northern Ireland.

“That is why we need a new approach based on negotiation and the finding of a new and enduring consensus. There is a real opportunity to move forward in a way that protects the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement and put UK-EU relations on a stable footing.

“We urge the EU to grasp this opportunity, take full account of the issues at stake, and help deliver the brighter future that is within reach”.

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Brandon Lewis MP, Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, said: "The past few months have shown the current approach to the protocol is simply not working.

“Already we have seen trade diverted, supply chains disrupted and increased costs due to added bureaucracy.

“This is all having a considerable impact on everyday life in Northern Ireland.

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"The new approach we have set out today, based on negotiation and consensus, recognises that a sustainable solution will require significant changes to the way the protocol is being approached.

“Working together we can find a new balance that better reflects the unique circumstances of Northern Ireland."

Shadow Northern Ireland secretary Louise Haigh told the Commons the government’s plans had “destroyed trust” in the UK.

She said: “It has destroyed trust in the UK Government, an essential component of the Belfast Good Friday Agreement, it has fanned the flames on instability and, as ever, in the middle of this are the communities and businesses of Northern Ireland who have been repeatedly failed.

“Today businesses and communities needed reassurance. They needed to see the Secretary of State announce to this House an agreement on a sustainable way forward that will fix the problems the Prime Minister created.

"Instead they have more political brinkmanship, more threats to tear up the protocol with nothing to take its place. Communities are tired of these games from a government they have totally lost trust in.”

Social Democratic and Labour Party leader Colum Eastwood told the Commons: “This statement is the second attempt in one week that this government has made to distance itself from agreements that they have negotiated.

“Why does he think that any other country, or any person in Northern Ireland, will trust anything that this government says from this day forward?”

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Within hours the EU had rejected the demand, instead calling for a fix within “the framework of the protocol".

European Commission vice-president Maroš Šefčovič said: “We take note of the statement made by Lord Frost today.

"We will continue to engage with the UK, also on the suggestions made today.

“We are ready to continue to seek creative solutions, within the framework of the protocol, in the interest of all communities in Northern Ireland.

"However, we will not agree to a renegotiation of the protocol.”

The stance was backed by Simon Coveney, the Irish foreign minister.

He insisted: “Any solutions must take place within the framework of the protocol and the principles that underpin it.”

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