The UK warns it could suspend the Brexit deal in Northern Ireland

Britain announced on Wednesday that it was willing to suspend part of the Brexit deal with Brussels, unless the EU agreed to a major overhaul of trade rules for Northern Ireland, which tensions between the two parties increase.

Brandon Lewis, secretary for Northern Ireland, told lawmakers he wanted to negotiate a new agreement with the EU – but he had reserved the possibility of the UK suspending the Northern Ireland protocol. in the Brexit agreement.

Britain wants to eliminate most of the controls on goods moving from Britain to Northern Ireland that are sent in the protocol.

Lewis said it was clear that “circumstances already exist” to justify the suspension of the protocol, but added: “We have come to the conclusion that this is not the right time to do so.”

Brandon Lewis has told lawmakers he wants to negotiate a new settlement with the EU © PA

The UK’s proposals to reform the protocol’s operation are likely to be criticized in Brussels, and the US administration of Joe Biden has warned that it is looking to ensure that every move by Boris Johnson’s government does not jeopardize the Northern Ireland peace process.

According to the protocol approved by Johnson in 2019, all goods shipped from Britain to Northern Ireland must follow EU rules for customs and agri-food products, resulting in controls over the Irish Sea. The Brexit deal sought to avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland.

Lord David Frost, Minister of the Cabinet Office, described the arrangements on the commercial border of the Irish Sea as “unsustainable”, telling MPs this week that it was necessary to “enormously reduce or eliminate barriers”. “created by the Northern Ireland protocol.

Speaking in the House of Lords on Wednesday, Frost said the UK government had tried to operate the protocol in “good faith”, but added that a new approach was needed. “Simply put we can’t continue as we are,” he told peers.

Frost said a government command card he indicated a “new balance” by virtue of which goods could move more freely within the customs territory of the United Kingdom, and also ensured that full processes were applied to products destined for the EU.

“The difficulties we face in implementing the Northern Ireland protocol are now the main obstacle to building a relationship with the EU that reflects our strong common interests and values,” he added.

“Instead of this relationship, we see one that is punctuated by legal challenges and characterized by disagreement and mistrust. We don’t want that model to be imposed.”

Britain wants Brussels to agree to a dual customs regime that would allow goods that comply with UK rules to move freely in Northern Ireland alongside EU-compliant products, as long as ‘they were labeled as using only in the region, according to people with knowledge of the proposals.

The UK’s proposals also include an “honesty box” approach, where companies claiming their goods were intended solely for sale and use in Northern Ireland should be exempt from controls at border of the Irish sea.

Another line of proposals would seek to remove any role for the European Commission or the European Court of Justice in the operation of the Northern Ireland protocol.

The government newspaper staged a clash between the UK and Brussels over a series of “grace periods” – waivers of controls on goods going from Britain to Northern Ireland including refrigerated meat – expires in late September.

The Irish Minister for European Affairs, Thomas Byrne, told the BBC: “We are going to listen carefully to what the British government has to say.

“We are ready to discuss any creative solution within the limits of the protocol but we must also acknowledge that Britain has decided to leave the single market of the European Union, to apply the rules of trade, to apply bureaucracy to the their goods coming from Britain, to the goods coming into Britain. “

Archie Norman, president of Marks and Spencer, warned Monday that the company was already cutting Christmas products in Northern Ireland because of concerns about post-Brexit controls.

He told the BBC that the controls would mean higher prices and less choice, and urged a “common sense approach to the application”.

In a letter to Frost, Norman said the current customs agreements were “totally inappropriate and were never conceived for a modern fresh food chain between closely intertwined trade partners.”

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