London will amend the post-Brexit trade arrangements known as the Northern Ireland Protocol in the coming weeks, UK Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said on Tuesday.
The Northern Ireland Protocol has long been a stumbling block in the relations between the United Kingdom and the European Union. Earlier in May, London warned the EU that if the bloc did not show the required flexibility to resolve the situation around the Protocol, then the UK government “would have no choice but to act”. Truss told UK Parliament, “I am announcing our intention to introduce legislation in the coming weeks to make changes in the protocol.”
At the same time, she added that the UK government still hopes to reach an agreement with the EU through negotiations. In particular, the UK foreign secretary invited European Commission Vice President for Interinstitutional Relations Maros Sefcovic to London to discuss the issue.
“However, to respond to the very grave and serious situation in Northern Ireland we are clear that there is a necessity to act to ensure the institutions can be restored as soon as possible,” Truss said.
The announcement is expected to increase the likelihood of a trade war with the EU amid a political crisis in Northern Ireland, though UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson dismissed such a possibility.
“What that actually involves is getting rid of some relatively minor barriers to trade. I think there are good, common sense, pragmatic solutions. We need to work with our EU friends to achieve that,” Johnson told the Sky News broadcaster.
As part of the Brexit agreement that went into force in January 2021, there is no hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, but under the Protocol all goods and animal-based products coming from the rest of the British territories must be checked upon arrival to ensure their compatibility with EU sanitary regulations.
The UK Government has argued that the Protocol is not working, as it causes delays and interruptions to goods moving between the United Kingdom and Northern Ireland and irritates unionists, who believe their place within the country could be affected, thus threatening the so-called Good Friday Agreement that in 1998 put an end to 30 years of armed conflict between the two.
In May, the situation around the Protocol worsened, as the nationalist party Sinn Fein won the majority of seats in the Northern Ireland legislature for the first time in history.