Boris issued Brexit ultimatum: ERG to scupper new Bill if it does not 'neutralise' EU deal


The Prime Minister will present legislation to parliament on Monday to unilaterally revise the post-Brexit trade arrangements for Northern Ireland. The order paper for the House of Commons said Foreign Secretary Liz Truss would present a bill to set out how the terms included in the Northern Ireland protocol would be defined in domestic law.

The move risks damaging relations between London and Brussels.

Mr Johnson agreed to the protocol in 2019 to allow Britain to leave the EU’s single market and customs union without controls being re-imposed on the border between the Irish Republic and Northern Ireland, vital to the 1998 Good Friday peace deal that ended three decades of violence.

By striking such a deal, he effectively agreed to a customs border between the British-run province of Northern Ireland and the rest of the United Kingdom.

Britain now says the protocol is unworkable, and months of talks with the EU have failed to find any solutions.

But Mr Johnson is also facing trouble in his own party with ERG members threatening to scupper the new Bill unless it completely eliminates the protocol.

One senior ERG figure told the Financial Times: “We want to neutralise the protocol.”

Bernard Jenkin, another ERG member, also told the Commons: “If the Government brings forward a bill that does not hold out the serious prospect of the restoration of power sharing in Northern Ireland and the restoration of the Good Friday Agreement, I will vote against it.”

In Northern Ireland, Sinn Fein Vice President Michelle O’Neill warned that the Prime Minister’s plan could have a “colossal political and economic impact”.

During a party meeting in Belfast, Ms O’Neill launched an attack on Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who she said was motivated solely by holding on to power.

It was the first party meeting for Sinn Fein since it secured a historic victory in last month’s Assembly elections, emerging as the largest party in Northern Ireland for the first time.

However, the DUP has blocked attempts to restore the powersharing Stormont assembly or to form an executive as part of its protest against the protocol, which has created a trade border in the Irish Sea.

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“The DUP and a faction of the Tories with whom they’re aligned want to squeeze from him what they can, while they can, on the Brexit protocol – a protocol which is necessary and a direct result of the hard Brexit the DUP and Tories championed.”

Ms O’Neill said: “Boris Johnson knows that to gamble the protocol is to breach international law and to jeopardise the British Government’s agreement with the EU on their withdrawal and future trading relationship with colossal political and economic impact.

“The threat of unilateral action by the Tories to legislate and breach international law serves nobody’s interests, anywhere at any time.

“With 40 percent of his own MPs diverging in this week’s confidence vote he has big choices to make in the interests of his own country and people.

“But, the absurdity of people of this island being subjected to this figure of disrepute is untenable.

“He is driving an anti-Good Friday Agreement agenda, which is disingenuously wrapped up in a pro-agreement rhetoric.

“Boris Johnson and (Northern Ireland Secretary) Brandon Lewis are giving the DUP cover and let’s be clear – the political stability of the north cannot be a hostage to the Tory in-fighting, Westminster chaos and continued DUP disruption.”

Ms O’Neill also said that if powersharing could not be restored in Northern Ireland, then there should be joint authority rule from Dublin and London.


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