UK isolated over Northern Ireland protocol as US-EU alliance rules out renegotiation

Joint US-EU statement reads ‘We agree that renegotiating the protocol is not an option’

Rob Merrick
Deputy Political Editor
Sunday 22 May 2022 18:10
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Boris Johnson admits he signed Northern Ireland Protocol hoping EU would not 'apply it'

The UK’s isolation over its plans to tear up the Northern Ireland protocol has been underlined by a new US-EU alliance ruling out a renegotiation.

A delegation of US politicians, led by a close ally of Joe Biden, agreed a joint statement with members of the European parliament following a meeting in Paris.

It calls on Boris Johnson to abandon planned legislation to override the international agreement, arguing that the protocol “protects the Good Friday Agreement in all its parts”.

In a press release following the interparliamentary meeting, congressman Brendan Boyle announced that a statement had been agreed upon, part of which reads: “We agree that renegotiating the protocol is not an option.”

This latest development comes just hours after Liz Truss, the foreign secretary, resisted pressure to back down after hosting the US delegation at her country retreat of Chevening on Saturday.

In stark contrast, she is understood to have insisted that the UK is “defending the Good Friday Agreement” – not endangering it – and warned that she would not let the “situation drag on”.

The crisis threatens to provoke a hugely damaging trade war if the EU carries out its threat to retaliate for what it considers to be a breach of the deal the prime minister signed and hailed as “fantastic” in 2019.

Nancy Pelosi, the speaker of the US House of Representatives, has also warned that rewriting the protocol unilaterally will kill any lingering hopes the UK has of a free trade deal with the United States.

The UK argues that the legislation is needed to remove trade border checks in the Irish Sea, and to persuade the Democratic Unionist Party to end its efforts to block the formation of a new power-sharing executive at Stormont.

However, it goes much further than customs controls, as it includes measures that target the role of the European Court of Justice in overseeing disputes, as well as aiming to restore the UK’s prerogative to decide VAT rates.

The EU insists it has put forward proposals to ease the burden of checks, and points to the UK’s refusal to sign up to common veterinary rules, which would reduce the need for much of the bureaucracy.

Last week, the prime minister admitted he had signed up to the trade barriers created by the Northern Ireland protocol while hoping that the EU would not “apply” them.

The proposed legislation has not yet been published, but is expected to be released within weeks – and could be voted through the Commons as early as next month.

The US delegation is led by Richard Neal, a senior member of the Democratic Party in the House of Representatives, who called the talks with Ms Truss “frank”.

He tweeted: “I urge good faith negotiations with the EU to find durable solutions for post-Brexit trade between Great Britain and Northern Ireland.”

Ms Truss posted: “We discussed our cast-iron commitment to the Belfast [Good Friday] Agreement, the importance of free trade and our condemnation of Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine.”

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