The UK wants the European Union to know that it isn’t one to be “pushed around” over the Northern Ireland issue, according to Attorney General for England and Wales Suella Braverman.
The AG, who also holds the position of advocate general for Northern Ireland, told The Sunday Telegraph that the UK “will do whatever it takes to ensure we get a good settlement for the Union”.
“Boris stood up to the EU last year and we got a good deal. I am really confident we are not going to let the EU push Northern Ireland around”, Braverman added firmly.
AP Photo / Matt Dunham
The official also cited remarks made by Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who during a Q&A session in the Parliament this week said that the UK “will do everything” it needs to do “to ensure that there is no barrier down the Irish Sea” – even if it means triggering Article 16 of the Northern Ireland Protocol.
The clause is specifically designed to allow the EU or the UK to override the agreement in relation to the Irish issue if the protocol starts causing “economic, societal or environmental difficulties”.
Johnson’s comments came as a response to Brussels’ call at the end of January to introduce export controls – and effectively checks – along the border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland amid attempts to prevent COVID vaccines from being shipped to the UK from the EU over disagreements regarding AstraZeneca supplies. The decision was not made in consultation with either London, Dublin, or Belfast, and unsurprisingly caused outrage among British and Irish officials, who pointed out that Brussels had been the one that repeatedly told the UK about the impossibility of having a hard border between the countries due to their troubled history. The proposal was quickly reversed.
AP Photo / Peter Morrison
But the UK is still not happy about some parts of the agreement, namely new paperwork and checks on goods entering Northern Ireland from Great Britain under the protocol – an issue that left Belfast with empty supermarket shelves in January, shortly after the Brexit deal came into force.
Johnson said that if no resolution is found to the issue, Britain could respond in the same manner the EU did when making its call to trigger Article 16.
The leader of Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party Arlene Foster said this week that the Irish clause “has not worked, cannot work”, and called on the prime minister to replace it.
According to a report by the Daily Mail, “physical inspections” of goods from Great Britain to Northern Ireland “have been suspended at ports amid intimidation of staff” as the row over the Northern Ireland Protocol continues.