Northern Ireland Protocol: London breaching agreement

After several unproductive telephone calls between London and Brussels the British government has, as it had threatened to do, introduced a bill that suspends certain parts of the Northern Ireland Protocol. Under the new legislation, a fast-track procedure will apply to goods entering Northern Ireland at customs check points between the two islands, and Northern Irish companies will also be able to choose whether to apply British or EU standards.

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SRF (CH) /

A brazen move

On the SRF radio programme Echo der Zeit, London correspondent Patrik Wülser sees a disregard for the Brexit deal:

“The proposal comes across as diplomatic and friendly, but it is clearly a unilateral rewording of the Northern Ireland Protocol. When the foreign secretary presents this package to parliament [on Monday], she will clearly be opening up a multidimensional game of chess. ... In the end, London also has to convince Washington. The Biden administration has always said that a free trade agreement with the US will only happen if peace is guaranteed in Northern Ireland.”

Irish Independent (IE) /

Johnson risking too much

There is nothing positive about this announcement, writes the Irish Independent:

“With his trademark dismissiveness and misguided self-confidence, Boris Johnson has declared the unilateral breaching of an international agreement as 'not a big deal'. ... The dangerous move ... harms the rapport between the UK and the EU at a critical juncture in European affairs, it bruises Britain's international reputation as an honest broker and damages the Anglo-Irish relationship. Critically, it jeopardises the peace, stability and continuity brought about by the Good Friday Agreement. Another knock-on impact is on Ireland's membership of the single market, a crucial part of our economic prosperity.”

The Guardian (GB) /

Unnecessary escalation

This is an irresponsible and destabilising step, says The Guardian:

“By now declaring a readiness to abrogate an international agreement, Ms Truss has sent a damaging message to the world that Britain's word cannot be trusted. She has also needlessly antagonised our main trading partners, risking a downward spiral in relations with the EU at a time of economic crisis. There is an acceptance in Brussels that more flexible implementation of the protocol would be desirable, and a willingness to negotiate. Easements have already been offered, for example in relation to food-related checks and medicines. So why the escalation?”

The Daily Telegraph (GB) /

Show no weakness

London must now boldly take this step, The Daily Telegraph counters:

“The Protocol was agreed at a time when Remainers in Parliament were doing everything in their power to undermine the UK's position, including removing the option of walking away with a no-deal Brexit. The sequencing of the talks, as well as the EU's refusal to consider more innovative solutions to the Irish border issue, had tied the Government's hands. Moreover, ministers do not want to scrap the Protocol in its entirety. ... The worst outcome would be for the Government to raise the stakes and then shy away from action for fear of the consequences. Britain has paid the price before for showing weakness in the face of EU threats.”

Irish Examiner (IE) /

Papering over cracks instead of talking to EU

With his influence on the Unionists Johnson wants to influence the formation process of the Northern Ireland government, criticises Irish Examiner:

“That the protocol was a hard-fought element of the Brexit Treaty negotiated as part of an internationally binding agreement between the EU and Britain, and which was signed by Johnson and lauded by him as a 'great deal', seems of little consequence to the prime minister now. ... Instead of trying to cajole the Stormont parties 'back to work', he should be orchestrating talks with the EU and solving this problem in the correct forum rather than papering over the cracks in a wall he has helped to build himself.”

Sydsvenskan (SE) /

A sorry spectacle

Britain must come to terms with the fact that the Brexit also has negative consequences, Sydsvenskan argues:

“The Brexit agreement, which is supposed to prevent new border controls between Ireland and Northern Ireland, has created a border between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK. With Brexit, the UK has not only created new borders between itself and the EU, but also within the UK. ... Boris Johnson led the fight for Brexit. Now he is unhappy with the consequences for Britain. Pathetic.”

Salzburger Nachrichten (AT) /

Johnson's lies are catching up with him

There's a simple way out of the dilemma for London, at least in theory, the Salzburger Nachrichten explains:

“Now Johnson and his brash foreign secretary Liz Truss want to torpedo the Northern Ireland Protocol without further ado. Unilaterally, and in breach of international laws and treaties. An absurd process, to put it mildly, because it was clear from the start that this would happen: the British province of Northern Ireland cannot be inside and outside the EU at the same time. ... There is a simple solution. London only needs to continue to apply the EU's food safety and animal welfare standards. Then most of the checks would no longer be necessary. But this would undermine another of Johnson's lies, namely that all EU rules are superfluous nonsense.”