Brexit: Brandon Lewis Says NI Protocol Has “Profound Impact”
The news comes as the Prime Minister prepares to take steps to revoke parts of the Northern Ireland Protocol, an agreement in place with the EU since the UK left the bloc. Opinion across Northern Ireland is widely divided as loyalist and unionist groups oppose the idea of being a separate entity from the rest of the UK, while nationalists and republicans call for a referendum on the reunification of the island of Ireland.
The new plans will effectively give ministers the power to tear up the post-Brexit deal with the EU and the parameters of the protocol.
However, sources have begun to share concerns over the emboldened plans, fearing the move could trigger a major trade war with Brussels.
Senior Treasury officials expressed the most concern.
A source said: “If you have a trade war, it will impact the economy, especially when a real war is going on in Europe.”
The war in Ukraine has added an additional element of concern for the government.
Boris Johnson has been warned of a trade war with the EU
The NI protocol remains a sticking point between multiple parties
With the cost of living rising rapidly in the UK, the fallout from the invasion of Ukraine is beginning to impact both vital food items such as cooking oil, but of greater concern in the area of oil and gas supplies, which Russia seems to be using as a bargaining tool against Europe.
The Prime Minister has instructed his ministers to come up with plans to reduce rising costs across the country.
According to reports, Chancellor Rishi Sunak has not yet been involved in the details of those plans on Northern Ireland, with details being kept under wraps between the Prime Minister, Foreign Secretary Liz Truss and the Secretary of State. Northern Ireland, Brandon Lewis.
On Wednesday, Mr Johnson told MPs: “There is clearly an economic cost to the protocol.
“It is also now turning into a political problem.”
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Loyalists turned to violence because of the Protocol
Only two ministers know of Mr Johnson’s plans, Liz Truss is one of them
Die-hard loyalists in Northern Ireland have threatened to use violence over protocol, torching buses and clashing with police.
Messages were posted at ports warning dockworkers they would be legitimate targets to facilitate customs checks between the UK and Northern Ireland.
However, many EU diplomats have brushed off Prime Ministers’ concerns over Northern Ireland as other priorities take precedence.
A diplomat told the FT: “We are tired of hearing about Boris’ emotional struggles with the EU.
“There are bigger things to fear.”
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Brandon Lewis is also aware of the Prime Minister’s plans
Brussels has insisted it will not be provoked into a trade war with the UK, and the bloc will remain patient on the issue.
Other EU diplomats have suggested getting into a war of words with the Prime Minister now would only boost his popularity in Britain.
A source said: ‘We don’t want to be part of a Tory leadership race.
Another said: “Why should we react? adding that the plan was to hope that Johnson would be ousted and that the bloc could establish a more pragmatic relationship with his successor.
An EU official took the argument further, saying the bloc had little interest in the UK.
They said of the possible repercussions of a trade war on Northern Ireland protocol: “Those conversations about retaliation have not happened.
“No one is focusing on the UK.
“Since February 24, the only big thing on our plate is Ukraine and Russia.”
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Lord Frost said the protocol was never meant to be a permanent solution
EU countries fear inflicting more pain on their own businesses and on consumers already struggling with rising prices partly caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
The bloc also hopes the United States will play a role in restraining the Prime Minister on the issue surrounding Northern Ireland.
Already, President Joe Biden has suggested the UK will remain at the tail end of a transatlantic trade deal until the terms of the 1998 Good Friday Agreement can be safely secured after Brexit.
Lord David Frost, the former Brexit secretary who brokered the protocol, said on Wednesday it would be “entirely reasonable” for the government to act unilaterally to override certain elements of the deal into national law.
He said the protocol was not intended to be “a permanent feature” of Britain’s relationship with the EU.
He added: “It would be totally wrong and unwarranted to draw any conclusions about our broader attitude to international law.”