LONDON -- The British government will introduce legislation Monday to unilaterally alter post-Brexit trade rules in Northern Ireland, despite opposition from lawmakers who feel the move is against international law.
The bill proposes to eliminate customs checks on certain goods entering Northern Ireland from the U.K. This will override some parts of the trade agreement that Prime Minister Boris Johnson with the European Union signed less than two years back.
The British government insists that the bill is legal, but the EU threatened to retaliate. This raises the possibility of trade wars between the two countries.
Simon Coveney, the Irish foreign affairs minister, stated Monday that the bill "marks an especially low point in U.K. approach to Brexit." Micheal Martin, the Irish prime minister, said that it was "very regrettable" for a country such as the U.K. "to renege upon an international treaty."
Johnson said that Johnson was open to criticism and that the change was "relatively easy to make."
He told LBC Radio that it was a small number of adjustments in the grand scheme.
He claimed that his government's "higher, prior legal commitment" to the 1998 Good Friday Peace Agreement and to maintaining stability in Northern Ireland is.
The most difficult issue in Britain's decision to divorce from the EU was the arrangements for Northern Ireland, the only region of the U.K. with a border with an EU country. These agreements became final at 2020.
The Northern Ireland Protocol is at the heart of these disputes. It seeks peace between Northern Ireland (a part of Britain) and Republic of Ireland (part of the EU after Brexit.
To protect the EU's single markets, some goods such as meat or eggs are restricted from entering Northern Ireland from the U.K.
Johnson has found the arrangement to be politically harmful because it treats Northern Ireland differently than the rest of the United Kingdom. This could potentially weaken the province's historical links with Britain. Until the protocol is amended or scrapped, the Northern Ireland Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) has refused to resign from the power-sharing government.
The bill to repeal that arrangement will likely face opposition from Parliament, including members of Johnson's Conservatives. Critics claim that unilaterally changing the protocol is illegal and would harm Britain's standing in relation to other countries, as it is part of an international treaty which is binding.
Johnson's government claimed it had engaged with the EU in negotiations, and accused Brussels of being rigid.
Maros Sefcovic, Vice President of the European Commission, stated Monday that unilateral action was damaging to mutual trust and creates uncertainty.
This story was contributed by Samuel Petrequin, an Associated Press reporter in Brussels.
Follow AP's coverage of Brexit at https://apnews.com/hub/brexit.