Johnson announces unilateral plan to amend Northern Ireland protocol

Seeking to put pressure on the European Union to obtain a renegotiation and calm the unionists in Northern Ireland to unblock regional institutions, the British government presented its unilateral plan to modify post-Brexit controls on Tuesday.

Johnson announces unilateral plan to amend Northern Ireland protocol

Seeking to put pressure on the European Union to obtain a renegotiation and calm the unionists in Northern Ireland to unblock regional institutions, the British government presented its unilateral plan to modify post-Brexit controls on Tuesday.

In a long-awaited speech before the House of Commons, Foreign Secretary Liz Truss announced her "intention to introduce legislation in the coming weeks to bring about changes to the protocol" in Northern Ireland.

"Our preference remains a negotiated solution with the EU, and in parallel with whatever legislation is introduced, we remain open to further talks, if we can achieve the same result through a negotiated settlement," he added, pressing Brussels to change its mind and hoping not to unleash a trade war with its former European partners for the time being.

Since the beginning of the Brexit negotiations in 2017, protecting the precarious balance of forces in Northern Ireland, historically and culturally very close to the neighboring Republic of Ireland -a member country of the EU- has always been the biggest hurdle to overcome.

And despite the fact that the United Kingdom officially left the bloc in February 2020 and completely in January 2021, the "protocol" is now causing tensions again, not only between London and Brussels, but also with the autonomous regional institutions in Belfast.

The 1988 Good Friday peace deal, which ended three decades of bloody conflict between Northern Irish Protestant unionists and Catholic republicans, mandated that both sides share power in the regional executive of this British nation of 1.9 million people. However, 12 days after the historic victory of the republican party Sinn Fein -former political arm of the armed group IRA and in favor of the reunification of Ireland- in the regional legislative elections, the unionist party DUP blocks the autonomous parliament and refuses to form a government until that London does not modify the protocol.

To avoid the return of a physical border with the Republic of Ireland, unacceptable to the republicans and which could jeopardize the fragile peace, the protocol imposes customs controls on products arriving in the region from the rest of the United Kingdom.

Unionists denounce that this threatens their place in the country.

London, which has been demanding an in-depth renegotiation of the text from the EU for months, affirms that "it has never suggested discarding it" but rather "reforming it". "The question is how to do it," British Prime Minister Boris Johnson launched after meeting Monday in Belfast with representatives of the five regional parties to try to unblock the situation.

"We would like to do it in a consensual way with our friends and partners, smoothing out the problems," he said, referring to the EU, "but to achieve this, to have a guarantee, we also have to proceed with a legislative solution at the same time," he stressed.


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