Boris Johnson announces law to repeal the Northern Ireland protocol signed with Boris Johnson

In its latest effort to annoy the rest of Europe as spectacularly as possible, the British government floated deceptive new plans on Monday to bypass a crucial deal it struck with the European Union – after painstaking negotiations – just three years ago.

This unconventional move was alleged to threaten the integrity of the European Union; the union of the United Kingdom; Rather, it undermines the peace process on the island of Ireland.

Boris Johnson – the prime minister who narrowly escaped a vote of no-confidence after attending a series of parties that led to the collapse of the lockdown in Downing Street – sees the rogue moving differently, calling his explosive legislation a “relatively trivial set of amendments”.

Troubles have been about what to do about Northern Ireland for months. Now, Johnson’s solution to breaking the deadlock appears to be to scrap parts of one section of the deal known as the Northern Ireland Protocol. His Secretary of State, Liz Truss, is expected to introduce legislation that could repeal parts of the protocol in Parliament on Monday.

The Northern Ireland Protocol is a trade agreement that outlines how goods will enter Northern Ireland from the rest of the United Kingdom after Brexit. The UK-EU deal was agreed in 2019 and is designed to stop placing a difficult border between the Republic of Ireland (which is in the EU) and Northern Ireland (which is in the UK). This was vital to safeguarding the 1998 peace agreement that ended decades of significant sectarian violence in the region. Instead of strict borders, customs checks were imposed on goods moving from Britain to Northern Ireland.

But this actually led to the division of the United Kingdom by creating a border in the Irish Sea between mainland Britain and Northern Ireland. Communities in Northern Ireland that identify strongly as British hate the arrangement, saying it effectively pushes them out of the UK, and some British companies have even cut ties with Northern Ireland companies over the new papers. Even pro-London lawmakers in Northern Ireland were blocking the vital functions of Stormont, the district’s delegated assembly, until “action” was taken on the protocol. The row angered conservative politicians in Westminster. Johnson is now seeking to put forward their demands for change.

The problem is that it does so by invalidating the agreement it made with the European Union only three years ago. The EU refused to submit to new negotiations, citing the fact that Johnson had agreed to the existing arrangements. Brussels also fears for the integrity of the EU itself if it cannot control what enters the single market trading bloc. So in the face of the EU’s rejection of any reciprocal changes to the protocol, it appears Johnson will try to unilaterally bypass the agreement – a move some critics say could breach international law and seriously damage Britain’s reputation on the world stage.

“It’s a bureaucratic change that needs to be made. It’s frankly a relatively trivial set of adjustments,” Johnson said in a radio interview with LBC on Monday. “All we’re trying to do is some bureaucratic simplification between Great Britain and Northern Ireland.” The Irish government is a measure that Johnson has suggested is “extremely harmful” and which could represent a “low point” in his approach to Britain’s exit from the European Union.

Legislation proposed to repeal the protocol would still need to pass through the British Parliament, which could take months. But if it succeeds, the consequences could be dire for the UK, Ireland and the EU. London’s relationship with Washington could also be strained as Biden has repeatedly made clear that peace in Northern Ireland is a personal priority.

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