Tensions rise in Ireland over UK Protocol threat

While a spokesperson for Prime Minister Boris Johnson insisted the government has taken no decision yet on its next steps, the UK’s Foreign Secretary, Liz Truss, told Brussels’ Brexit negotiator Maroš Šefčovič on Thursday (12 May) that London would have “no choice but to act” if the EU did not show the “requisite flexibility” on the Protocol.  [EPA-EFE/ANDY RAIN]

Irish officials continue to push back against the British government over its reported intention to scrap large parts of the Northern Ireland Protocol unilaterally.

Tensions have risen over reports that the UK is drafting legislation that would allow it to abandon key elements of the protocol, such as checks on goods entering Northern Ireland from Britain.

While a spokesperson for Prime Minister Boris Johnson insisted the government has taken no decision yet on its next steps, the UK’s Foreign Secretary, Liz Truss, told Brussels’ Brexit negotiator Maroš Šefčovič on Thursday (12 May) that London would have “no choice but to act” if the EU did not show the “requisite flexibility” on the Protocol.

Speaking to Irish broadcaster RTÉ on Wednesday (11 May), Ireland’s Foreign Minister Simon Coveney said that the working relationship with the UK in the past “is absent at the moment.”

He added that he was not sure whether the British government was interested in working to resolve issues related to the Protocol, adding that threats made by the UK “have gone down really badly” with the EU.

The EU has seen London reject its attempts to compromise and find common ground, instead moving towards a breach of international law, Coveney said, adding, “that hasn’t gone down well, and I hope that decision-makers in Westminster will reflect on that”.

In Brussels, Šefčovič this week said unilateral action by the UK would be “simply unacceptable.” Irish EU Commissioner for Financial Services, Mairead McGuinness, told RTÉ on Thursday that London’s threats had resulted in a “ratcheting up of the temperature” and “a sense of here we go again, regrettably.”

Warnings against such a step by the UK have also spread beyond Brussels.

On Tuesday (10 May), German Chancellor Olaf Scholz told reporters, “no one should unilaterally cancel, break or in any way attack the settlement we have agreed together, especially because we know that this is a complex issue which is not only about the relationship between the EU and UK but also has to do with the peaceful development or Ireland.”

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