Prime Minister Boris Johnson “never intended” to respect the Northern Ireland Protocol trade agreement which he signed with the EU in 2019, according to Wiener Zeitung. The daily has also reported that members of the European Parliament view relations with Britain as having reached a “low point”.
In an article published on Wednesday, May 18, Wiener Zeitung said: “[T]he British leadership now risks a total clash with the EU.”
The SPÖ Head of Delegation in the EU Parliament, Andreas Schieder, is quoted as saying that presentation of the Bill to amend the protocol is a transparent negotiating strategy of the British government.
He said: “With this, [the British Government] wants to raise the price in the negotiations and put the EU under pressure.”
Mr Schieder continued: “It is difficult to understand that the agreement was negotiated and signed by the same British government that is now trying to undermine parts of the agreement.”
Anna Cavazzini, trade policy spokesperson for Germany’s Green Party, is quoted as saying that the EU must not allow itself to be swayed by threats under any circumstances, describing this as exactly what Mr Johnson intends with the “announced provocation”.
Britain plans to introduce legislation to override parts of the protocol which Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said on Tuesday would neither break international law nor be brought in immediately.
The EU’s ambassador in the UK, Joao Vale de Almeida, warned on Thursday that “action calls for reaction” if Britain were to unilaterally tear up parts of the deal.
European Commission Vice President Maros Sefcovic has been invited to London for further talks.
Despite EU warnings over unilateral action, the new law would change parts of the protocol which effectively created a customs border in the Irish Sea.
A spokesman for the Prime Minister has said the Foreign Secretary has been clear that the measures currently on the table will not address the problems on the ground in Northern Ireland.
He added: “We remain committed to trying to reach a negotiated settlement.”
Mr Johnson agreed to the protocol in 2019 to allow Britain to leave the EU’s single market and customs union without controls being re-imposed on the border between the Irish Republic and Northern Ireland, a vital part of the 1998 Good Friday peace deal that ended 30 years of violence.
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The DUP is currently blocking the re-establishment of Stormont’s power-sharing institutions in protest at the trade arrangement.
While welcoming Ms Truss’s announcement on Tuesday, the DUP has said it will not immediately lift its power-sharing boycott.
It said it will instead adopt a “graduated and cautious” approach to re-engaging with the devolved institutions, depending on the progress of the legislation.
DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson has said the party needs assurances over removal the Irish Sea trade border in the form of actions, not words.
Irish premier Micheal Martin is due to hold talks with political leaders in Belfast on Friday, May 20, amid ongoing deadlock at Stormont over the protocol.
Meanwhile, House of Representatives speaker Nancy Pelosi has said the US Congress will not support a free trade agreement with the UK if the Government persists with “deeply concerning” plans to “unilaterally discard” the protocol.
The congresswoman said: “It is deeply concerning that the United Kingdom is now seeking to unilaterally discard the Northern Ireland Protocol.
“Negotiated agreements like the protocol preserve the important progress and stability forged by the Good Friday Accords, which continue to enjoy strong bipartisan and bicameral support in the United States Congress.
“As I have stated in my conversations with the Prime Minister, the Foreign Secretary and Members of the House of Commons, if the United Kingdom chooses to undermine the Good Friday Accords, the Congress cannot and will not support a bilateral free trade agreement with the United Kingdom.
“Respectful of the will of the British people and of Brexit, I urge constructive, collaborative and good-faith negotiations to implement an agreement that upholds peace.”
With additional reporting by Monika Pallenberg