HomeEuropeUK will legislate to change post-Brexit Northern Ireland trade rules

UK will legislate to change post-Brexit Northern Ireland trade rules

LONDON — The U.K. will legislate to change post-Brexit rules governing trade in Northern Ireland, the British foreign secretary has confirmed.

In a statement to the House of Commons Tuesday, Liz Truss said she will bring forward a bill in the next few weeks giving British ministers the power to slash customs paperwork on businesses trading across the Irish Sea under the so-called Northern Ireland protocol, among other changes.

Unilateral action is needed because the Good Friday peace agreement is “under strain” and unionists in Northern Ireland are refusing to form a power-sharing regional executive because of the protocol, she argued.

“Our preference is to reach a negotiated outcome with the EU and we have worked tirelessly to that end and will continue to do so,” she said. But after a year and a half of talks, she said, the EU’s proposals “don’t address the fundamental concerns” with the protocol.

Truss told MPs “the government is clear that proceeding with the bill is consistent with our obligations and international law and in support of our prior obligations in the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement.”

Agreed by both the U.K. and EU as part of the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement in 2019, the protocol was drawn up to protect the EU’s single market after Britain exited in January 2021, while preventing a land border in the island of Ireland.

EU-U.K. talks on simplifying the operation of the protocol have been frozen since February, but the European Commission is aiming to resume the discussions in the second half of the year, an EU diplomat said.

Speaking ahead of the statement, a Commission spokesman urged the U.K. to engage on the basis of the proposals put forward by the EU in October.

“In general, when we came forward with the flexibilities last October we said this was not a ‘take it or leave it’ type package,” he told reporters Tuesday.

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