Boris Johnson says new N.Ireland trade law could be passed this year

(C) Reuters. FILE PHOTO: A truck drives past a ‘money changed’ sign for euro, sterling and dollar currencies on the border between Northern Ireland and Ireland, in Jonesborough, Northern Ireland, May 19, 2022. REUTERS/Clodagh Kilcoyne

LONDON/DUBLIN (Reuters) -British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Monday parliament could pass legislation this year to scrap some of the rules on post-Brexit trade with Northern Ireland, pressing on with plans that have angered the European Union.

Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney expressed disappointment over the decision, which will overturn part of a Brexit divorce deal agreed in 2020, saying “this is not the way to find sustainable solutions”.

Tensions have simmered for months after Britain accused the EU of a heavy-handed approach to the movement of goods between Britain and Northern Ireland – checks needed to keep an open border with EU member Ireland.

Johnson says the new legislation will bring about “relatively trivial” changes to the protocol to ease trade within the United Kingdom, but the EU has launched legal proceedings against Britain over it.

Asked if the changes could be implemented this year, Johnson told broadcasters: “Yes, I think we could do it very fast, parliament willing”.

‘HUGELY DISAPPOINTED’

But Ireland’s Coveney repeated his criticism that the legislation would only add to uncertainty in Northern Ireland.

“I am hugely disappointed that the British government is continuing to pursue its unlawful unilateral approach on the Protocol on Northern Ireland,” he said in a statement.

The legislation, which would unilaterally replace parts of the deal – known as the Northern Ireland protocol – is due to be sent back to parliament’s lower house for a second reading. That is one of the stages of the law’s passage through parliament.

A bigger challenge will be when it moves to the upper house, the unelected House of Lords, where many peers have expressed concern about it.

On Sunday British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss again said London’s priority was to protect a 1998 peace deal that Ireland, the United States and other countries have said could be put at risk by replacing parts of the protocol.

“This legislation will fix the problems the protocol has created, ensuring that goods can flow freely within the UK, while … safeguarding the EU single market,” Truss said, repeating that London preferred a negotiated solution.

She discussed the trade problems with businesses in Northern Ireland by video-link on Monday, saying: “We will continue to engage UK and EU businesses to make sure we have the best possible solutions in place”.

Boris Johnson says new N.Ireland trade law could be passed this year

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