The British government considers unilateral changes to the so-called Northern Ireland Protocol to be legal. British Minister for Northern Ireland Brandon Lewis told Sky News on Sunday that a bill that would give ministers the power to abolish parts of this Brexit regulation for Northern Ireland would not violate international law.
“What we are going to do is lawful and correct,” he said. It will be seen that the government’s proposal will solve the protocol’s key problems. In addition, the regulation is rejected by the pro-British Unionists in Northern Ireland. “So it’s right that we fix that,” he said.
More important than the protection of the Northern Ireland Protocol is the protection of the Good Friday Agreement of 1998, which ended the 30-year conflict in Northern Ireland with several thousand deaths. At the same time, Lewis accused the European Union of a lack of flexibility.
Rachel Reeves of the opposition Labor Party told the broadcaster that it appeared the government was planning to break international law. Instead, to get the Northern Ireland Protocol to work, you have to negotiate and work together with your European partners.
London and the EU had concluded the protocol in the wake of Brexit. The regulation is intended to prevent a hard border with EU member Ireland, but a customs border has emerged between Northern Ireland and the rest of the United Kingdom. This is a thorn in the side of Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government, which is why they want to make changes.
The leader of the Northern Ireland Sinn Fein party, Mary Lou McDonald, has accused British Prime Minister Boris Johnson of using Northern Ireland for his own political purposes. Johnson’s planned unilateral change to the terms of the Brexit treaty on Northern Ireland was intended to “enhance the ego and ambitions of Boris Johnson or any of his would-be successors,” McDonald said on Sky News on Sunday. The fact that Northern Ireland and Ireland would become a political pawn was “shameful”.
McDonald accused the Johnson-led government on Sunday of violating “international law” by amending the Northern Ireland Protocol. In addition, in Northern Ireland, a large part of MPs and the population support the existing regulation.
Johnson narrowly survived a vote of no confidence in Parliament a week ago. Since then, the Prime Minister has reportedly been under considerable pressure from Brexit hardliners in his Conservative Party to change the Northern Ireland Protocol.
Lewis did not want to give any information on Sunday about the exact proposals of the government. However, it is expected that the government will want to abolish most of the customs controls between Northern Ireland and the rest of the United Kingdom provided for in the Brexit treaty. Goods from England, Scotland and Wales could then be delivered to Northern Ireland via a “green channel” without a customs declaration being made in the EU.