Brexit: Boris Johnson risks collapse of EU talks with controversial new plan to 'rip up' parts of withdrawal agreement

Shock move would override legal agreements on state aid and Irish Sea customs checks - also 'undermining' fragile peace process

Rob Merrick
Deputy Political Editor
Monday 07 September 2020 08:11
Brexit briefing: How long until the end of the transition period?

Boris Johnson plans to “rip up” the parts of his Brexit deal affecting Northern Ireland, threatening a collapse of talks with the EU and the peace process, critics say.

In a shock move, new legislation would override legal agreements with Brussels on using state aid and requiring customs checks on goods crossing the Irish Sea.

The prime minister was immediately accused of bringing a no-deal Brexit significantly closer – risking the end of the trade negotiations as early as this week.

The change would also undermine the still-fragile peace in Northern Ireland and the UK’s worldwide reputation, as it reneged on an international agreement signed less than a year ago, it was said.

Colum Eastwood, the leader of the SDLP said: “It’s absolutely astonishing that any government who says they want to go and do trade deals around the world would just rip up an agreement that they made a few months ago with the European Union.”

And Simon Coveney, Ireland’s foreign affairs minister, tweeted ominously: “This would be a very unwise way to proceed.”

Louise Haigh MP, Labour’s shadow Northern Ireland secretary, said: “It beggars belief that the government is – yet again – playing a dangerous game in Northern Ireland and sacrificing our international standing at the altar of the prime minister’s incompetence.”

The high-wire move – an Internal Market Bill due to be published on Wednesday – comes after Mr Johnson threatened a walk-out from the talks if there is no agreement by 15 October.

He also described a no-deal outcome – which would cause massive border disruption, risk a fresh recession and undermine security cooperation – as “a good outcome”.

Downing Street is expected to argue the new bill is a fallback option, should the trade talks fail, but it is certain to inflame Brussels negotiators.

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