'The UK can not be trusted' following Northern Ireland Protocol move

Katie Ramirez
March 4, 2021

Northern Irish loyalist paramilitary organizations told British Prime Minister Boris Johnson they are temporarily withdrawing support for the 1998 peace agreement due to concerns over the Brexit deal, the Belfast Telegraph reported.

'This is the second time that the UK Government is set to breach worldwide law.

They called for the protocol to be amended following weeks of issues with trade between Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

They oppose the additional checks and paperwork for goods moving between Great Britain and Northern Ireland - implemented to prevent the need for a hard border on the island of Ireland.

Northern Ireland's chief constable Simon Byrne has said he does not believe loyalists are likely to return to violence.

European Commission Vice-President Maroš Šefčovič condemned the move, branding it "a clear departure from the constructive approach" to ongoing talks on Northern Ireland trade that he said would undermine trust.

However, Simon Hoare, the chairman of the United Kingdom parliament's Northern Ireland Affairs committee, and a member of the governing party, tweeted that while the case for extending the grace periods was "compelling" the government's unilateral move was an "approach most likely to have negative/unhelpful consequences".

Tensions surrounding the trading arrangements deepened on Wednesday when Britain unilaterally announced it would extend a post-Brexit grace period, deferring checks on agri-foods entering Northern Ireland from Britain.

Frost, who took up his ministerial post earlier this week having previously served as the UK's chief negotiator on the Trade and Cooperation Agreement with the European Union, also informed Šefčovič that "progress still needed to be urgently made to address the direct and often disproportionate impact that aspects of the Protocol are having on the citizens of Northern Ireland, contrary to its intended goal".

The fate of Northern Ireland was the most bitterly contested issue during Britain's Brexit negotiations, with London ultimately agreeing to leave the British-ruled region aligned with the EU's single market for goods, requiring checks on some items arriving there from elsewhere in the United Kingdom. Britain had until the end of March 2021 to implement the checks, but it has made a decision to extend the implementation period until October.

Boris Johnson visit to Teesside
Prime Minister Boris Johnson was asked about the protocol issues during a visit to Teesport in Middlesbrough on Thursday

The disruption caused widespread confusion among businesses, with some United Kingdom suppliers refusing to ship goods across the Irish Sea.

The UK government has defended the decision as operationally necessary by saying: "For supermarkets and their suppliers, as part of the operational plan the UK committed to at the UK-EU Joint Committee on February 24, the current Scheme for Temporary Agri-food Movements to Northern Ireland will continue until October 1".

The six-month delay is necessary, it argued, "to provide more time for businesses such as supermarkets and parcel operators to adapt to and implement the new requirements in the Protocol".

The European Commission argues that this breaches the so-called Northern Ireland Protocol and global law.

Contentiously, it also imposes new checks on some trade between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK.

"A unilateral announcement is deeply unhelpful to building the relationship of trust and partnership that is central to the implementation of the Protocol", Coveney said.

That bureaucracy is set to intensify significantly when the grace period ends, as from that point supermarkets and other retailers will require European Union export health certificates for agri-food products brought in from GB.

Mr Coveney met Mr Lewis and the Cabinet Office minister responsible for EU-UK relations, Lord Frost.

Michelle O'Neill has accused the UK Government of upping the ante over the Northern Ireland Protocol with a display of "extreme bad faith".

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