The Northern Ireland Protocol confronts London and Brussels again. The European Union has once again accused the United Kingdom of violating international law and threatens to take legal action after the Government of Boris Johnson has announced its intention to unilaterally modify the approved Protocol with many difficulties to carry out the Brexit trade agreement .
The European Parliament responded on Thursday by refusing to set a date for the vote on the trade agreement between the EU and the United Kingdom, in protest at the illegal changes that the British Executive intends to make. Ratification was scheduled for March 24 and can now be postponed until the deadline, at the end of April.
If by then that process has not been completed and a provisional application of the agreement has not been approved, the trade agreement that entered into force on January 1 can be suspended. In that case, the United Kingdom and the European Union would find themselves trading with rates and quotas under the terms of the World Trade Organization..
“We are ready to use that weapon,” Bernd Lange, president of the European Parliament’s Trade Committee, told Reuters. “It is the last resort. What we really want is a de – escalation of this situation.”
The new lawsuit broke out on Wednesday when, in a statement in the House of Commons, the Minister for Northern Ireland, Brandon Lewis, indicated that the British Executive intends to extend until October the grace period for border controls that must end on 31 December. March.
A measure that affects goods from Great Britain bound for Northern Ireland. The EU understands that this decision must be taken after consultation , and jointly, but Johnson, according to his spokesman, considers that such a decision respects the provisions of the protocol. “I am sure that with good will and common sense, all these technical problems are solvable,” said the prime minister.
A partner that cannot be trusted
“This is the second time that the UK Government is willing to violate international law,” denounced the Vice President of the European Commission, Maros Sefcovic. Last September, Johnson approved the UK Internal Market Act , which gave ministers powers to unilaterally suspend customs controls or determine the granting of aid to companies in Northern Ireland. The EU threatened legal action and Johnson eventually shelved the amendments.
In the country most directly affected, the Republic of Ireland, British intentions have provoked a furious reaction . “This is not the proper behavior of a respectable country,” said Deputy Prime Minister Leo Varadkar .
“Unfortunately what this means is that the EU realizes that it is negotiating with a partner that it simply cannot trust and this is not the first time that has happened,” said Foreign Minister Simon Coveney .
Warning from the loyalist paramilitaries
In order to avoid a physical border between the two Ireland, it was agreed in the Brexit negotiations that the British Northern Ireland region will continue to be part of the EU single market. That required new border controls in the Irish Sea that are carrying a heavy bureaucratic burden.
Paperwork and other difficulties have led to product shortages in supermarkets and political tensions . To the threatening graffiti against the dock workers, another ‘warning’ from the loyalist paramilitaries has now been added .
In a letter addressed to the Prime Ministers of London and Dublin and Vice President Sefcovic, the loyalists announce the temporary withdrawal of their support for the Good Friday Agreement in rejection of the Protocol.
The letter is signed by the president of the Council of Loyalist Communities, David Campell, which includes paramilitary gangs linked to the Protestant unionists. Although they say they are determined to oppose it in a peaceful and democratic way , they issue a warning about the “permanent destruction” that the 1998 Peace Agreement will suffer if the Protocol is not modified.