Prime Minister Boris Johnson warned Wednesday he will take “necessary steps” to unilaterally alter Britain’s post-Brexit trade terms unless the EU changes the way it is implementing them in Northern Ireland.
His comments, the latest salvo in a sausage-centred spat between London and Brussels, came as his government confirmed it has asked the EU to extend a grace period for some rules in the British province.
Britain wants the bloc to delay an end-of-month deadline to implement a new trading regime around chilled meats, which could see imports to Northern Ireland of products like sausages banned.
London and the European Union agreed a special “protocol” to govern post-Brexit trade with Northern Ireland as part of their divorce deal.
Since the start of 2021, the territory has remained effectively inside the EU customs union and single market for goods.
The scheme prevents a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, a former flashpoint in decades-long sectarian conflict known as “The Troubles” which largely ended in 1998.
However, the protocol is deeply unpopular within the pro-UK unionist community, who argue it creates a de-facto border with mainland Britain.
Lawmakers from the ruling Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) are pushing Johnson to scrap the scheme entirely, rather than tweak its terms and timings.
Asked by DUP MP Jeffrey Donaldson if he would commit to fully restoring Northern Ireland’s place within the UK internal market, Johnson replied he could give “assurances” on the issue.
“Unless we see progress on the implementation of the protocol, which I think is currently totally disproportionate, then we will have to take necessary steps to do exactly what he says,” the British premier told parliament. AFP