The UK government is ready to unilaterally change the Northern Ireland protocol even if it does not reach an agreement with the EU, Brexit Opportunities Minister Jacob Rees Mogg told lawmakers on Wednesday.
Giving evidence at a hearing of the House of Commons European Scrutiny Committee, Rees Mogg, who was appointed to the newly created post in February, said that “the wheels are in motion” to reform the protocol, which currently keeps Northern Ireland in the EU’s single market for goods and requires customs checks on goods travelling from Great Britain to Northern Ireland.
“We signed it on the basis that it would be reformed. And there comes a point at which you say: ‘Well, you haven’t reformed it, and therefore we are reforming it ourselves.’ And the United Kingdom is much more important than any agreement that we have with any foreign power,” he told MPs.
“We can do what we want, ultimately,” the Brexit opportunities minister told MPs.
The European Commission has warned that suspending the protocol unilaterally would have consequences for the Trade and Cooperation Agreement that was brokered following the UK’s exit from the bloc.
Negotiations between EU and UK officials on reforming the protocol have been put on hold, with Northern Ireland currently in the middle of campaigning for assembly elections.