(new: Reaction Scholz and the US government)
LONDON (dpa-AFX) – Just one week after he survived a vote of no confidence in his group, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has launched a new dispute with the EU. The bill, presented in the House of Commons on Monday, aims to unilaterally alter the Brexit arrangements agreed with Brussels for Northern Ireland. The plans have been criticized by Brussels and Berlin, as well as by the Irish government in Dublin and most members of the Northern Ireland regional parliament. On the other hand, the movement was welcomed by the union-Protestant DUP party in Northern Ireland.
The law is essential to ensure stability and peace in a former troubled province, said British Foreign Minister Liz Truss. She added: “We are open to talks with the EU.” However, progress can only be achieved if Brussels accepts changes to the agreement known as the Northern Ireland Protocol.
London threatens to abandon controls on goods agreed in a protocol to protect the EU’s internal market and replace them by voluntary regulation. Moreover, the role of the European Court of Justice is to be drastically reduced. London also wants to give itself a free hand when it comes to VAT rules. According to many experts, this would be a clear violation of international law. However, the government in London denies this.
EU Vice President Maros Sefcovic explained that renegotiating the Protocol with Northern Ireland was out of the question. “It would only mean more legal uncertainty for people and businesses in Northern Ireland,” Sefcovic said in Brussels on Monday night. The European Commission will now consider the reopening of legal proceedings against London, which were initiated for previous violations but were subsequently suspended. The opening of further infringement procedures that could protect the European internal market will also be examined.
Chancellor Olaf Scholz spoke of a very regrettable decision of the British Government. There is no reason to deviate from the agreements between the EU and Great Britain, said the SPD politician after the meeting with Slovak Prime Minister Eduard Heger. Federal Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock also accused the British government of unilaterally breaking agreements and thus destroying trust. “And for transparent, own motives,” wrote the green politician on Twitter. “Peace and prosperity on the Isle of Ireland are not a pawn,” added Baerbock. The US government has called on London and Brussels to return to talks “to resolve the differences,” White House spokeswoman Karine Jean-Pierre said.
Irish Prime Minister Michael Martin described the move as “new holes” and said that “it is very unfortunate that a country like the United Kingdom has broken an international treaty”.
The average Johnson wind also came from the capital of Northern Ireland, Belfast. A letter signed by 52 of the 90 MEPs in the regional parliament of Northern Ireland stated that the bill ran counter to the expressed wishes of companies and people in Northern Ireland.
Sharp criticism came from the Catholic-Republican Sinn Fein party, which became the strongest force in Northern Ireland for the first time in the May regional elections. “It’s ruthless, shameful and in no way in the interests of the people here,” said Michelle O’Neill, Prime Minister-Elect and Vice President of Sinn Fein.
Jeffrey Donaldson, head of the Protestant union party DUP, which is blocking the formation of a government of unity in Northern Ireland in protest against the protocol, found praise. What the London government has put forward is a solution and that is needed right now, Donaldson said.
The Northern Ireland protocol is part of the 2019 Brexit deal. It states that the province that is part of Great Britain will continue to comply with the rules of the EU internal market and the European Customs Union. This is to prevent product controls for the Republic of Ireland, which is a member of the EU, to prevent a new conflict between opponents and supporters of the reunification of both parts of Ireland. But now an intra-British border of goods has been created.
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson pushed the deal against the DUP’s will during the 2019 election campaign and celebrated it as an important breakthrough. He then won a clear majority in parliamentary elections. In the meantime, however, he ran into trouble with the blockade scandal of the party at the seat of the government. Last week he had to face a no-confidence vote in his own group. He was able to defend himself but is considered politically numbered. According to British commentators, with this step he wants to secure the support of the Brexit hardliners in his group./cmy/DP/on