Boris Johnson and Irish Foreign Secretary Simon Coveney have spoken of a possible “landing zone” to assuage union concerns about the Northern Ireland Protocol.
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Britain’s Prime Minister travels to Belfast today as tensions over the political deadlock in Stormont – and between London and the EU – have intensified.
He is expected to “validate plans for legislation to unilaterally repeal parts of Britain’s Brexit deal, despite warnings it could derail talks with Brussels and trigger a trade war with the EU,” he said financial times.
The Northern Ireland Protocol, agreed as part of the Brexit deal, works by keeping Northern Ireland in the EU’s single market for goods. As a result, there are new controls and paperwork in Northern Ireland for goods imported into the country from the rest of the UK.
Unhappy with the resulting ‘border’ in the Irish Sea, the DUP has blocked the formation of a new decentralized administration in protest. Although Sinn Féin emerged as the leading party in Stormont’s election earlier this month, their vice president, Michelle O’Neill, cannot become first minister without a Unionist agreeing to become deputy first minister.
Johnson will hold talks with party leaders and try to persuade the Democratic Unionists to enter the power-sharing government. The FT said he hopes his promise to ‘fix’ the protocol will ‘convince pro-British union leaders to join the executive’ but his threats to the EU have ‘raised fears in Treasury that this will eventually lead to could lead to retaliation in EU trade”. and exacerbate the cost-of-living crisis”.
In a bid to “defuse tensions”, the prime minister’s allies claimed yesterday that the plan to rewrite parts of the protocol was “just an ‘insurance policy’ in case talks with the EU to improve how it works falter”. , added the paper.
Speaking of BBCIreland’s Foreign Secretary Coveney said comments from the UK government about unilateral action on the Northern Ireland Protocol had been “really badly” received across the EU.
However, he hinted at a possible way forward, saying there is a “landing zone” for progress that could be made through partnerships, “as opposed to tribunes, threats and unilateral action that helps nobody”.
writing in Belfast TelegraphJohnson said he will “keep the door open for real dialogue,” also citing a potential “landing zone.”
Ulster Unionist leader Doug Beattie used the same term last week. He said the Executive needed to “get back on track” so that it could deal with the cost of living crisis for people in Northern Ireland. “If the obstacle to that is protocol, then we have to deal with protocol,” he was quoted as saying Newsletter.
Beattie, whose party holds 10% of the seats in Stormont, said the “landing zone” must mean “no controls on goods coming from the UK to Northern Ireland when they are in Northern Ireland”.
Stormont or the EU
Johnson “could be forced to choose between a government in Belfast or the deal he has agreed with the EU,” he said Sky news.
He said that “there will be action to be taken” if the EU refuses to change its stance on the protocol. The UK Government has “a responsibility to ensure that consumers, citizens and businesses in Northern Ireland are protected in the long term,” he said, adding that “he will present a more detailed assessment and next steps to Parliament shortly in a few days”.
Although the government is preparing to publish legislation to overturn the protocol, Sky News understands there are still concerns over the legal position among Cabinet ministers.
https://www.theweek.co.uk/news/uk-news/956753/northern-ireland-protocol-is-there-hope-for-a-landing-zone Northern Ireland Protocol: Is there hope for a ‘landing zone’?