Prime Minister Johnson challenges Brexit rules: Internal market law in Northern Ireland causes alienation at home and abroad.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government today presented to the House of Commons the long-awaited Single Market Bill that aims to simplify trade and the flow of goods with Northern Ireland. Certain checks are to be lifted where, under the Brexit deal, checks should actually be carried out, if there is not to be a hard external EU border between Northern Ireland and Ireland, a member of the EU.
“The proposal is diplomatic and friendly, but it is clearly a one-sided reformulation of the Northern Ireland Protocol,” notes UK correspondent Patrik Wülser.
Green and red line
There will also be a green and red UK import channel in Northern Ireland in the future – just like arrivals at airports: what passes through the green gate is destined for the Northern Irish market and will no longer be checked.
Scholz warns London
Open the box. Close the box
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz criticized the British government’s plans to unilaterally change the Brexit rules for Northern Ireland. “This is a very regrettable decision taken by the British government there,” said an SPD politician after meeting with Slovak Prime Minister Eduard Heger in Berlin. “This is a departure from all the agreements we have between the European Union and the UK. And there is no reason for that. ”
The EU will react very uniformly. “And he has his entire toolbox at his disposal,” added the Chancellor, thinking about the possible consequences, but without giving details. As the situation escalates, the risk of a trade war between the EU and Great Britain increases.
On the other hand, goods intended for further export to the Republic of Ireland and thus to the EU internal market should be checked on the red channel according to different guidelines: According to Wülser, the soup chicken intended for export must still meet the EU guidelines because before. If chicken is put in the pot in Northern Ireland, UK food regulations will apply in the future.
In the event of disputes, the responsibility will no longer be the European Court of Justice, but an independent arbitration tribunal. London also wants to give itself a free hand when it comes to VAT rules.
Against the rules of Brexit
With this proposal, the Johnson government is breaking an agreement with the EU, which includes a customs border in the Irish Sea. The government says the protocol on Northern Ireland threatens peace in a former troubled province. The limit of solid goods is a thorn in the side, especially of pro-British unionists who feel cut off from their homeland. Therefore, the government believes that political stability should take precedence over literal adherence to the protocol.
“We are open to talks with the EU,” said Foreign Minister Liz Truss in the House of Commons. However, progress can only be achieved if Brussels accepts the changes to the Northern Ireland Protocol. So far this has not happened.
It was always clear to observers that Northern Ireland was a predetermined tipping point for Brexit, says Wülser: Nevertheless, the protocol was signed at the time with the assumption that it could be improved later. You are right there.
With the bill being presented to parliament, Foreign Minister Truss opens up a kind of multidimensional game of chess, notes Wülser: already in the run-up to domestic and foreign policy, there were many reactions. In parliament, the opposition announced resistance. However, many conservatives also fear that their reputation will be damaged if international treaties are unilaterally changed.
The Irish government spoke on Monday about the “Brexit low point”. In Northern Ireland, Sinn Féin was disappointed. Ultimately, however, London must also convince Washington. Because the Biden government makes the US free trade agreement conditional on securing peace in Northern Ireland.
The open game is over
So this is an open-ended game that Johnson enters, as Wülser notes: In addition to the undisputed administrative problems the Northern Ireland import industry is facing as a result of the protocol, Johnson is primarily concerned about the symbolic collateral damage. Because pro-British trade unionists continue to block government formation in Northern Ireland due to a customs border. But Johnson cannot afford the conflict in Northern Ireland. Until the protocol issue is resolved, Brexit will remain a place of shame for Johnson.