► Why does Boris Johnson want to revise the Northern Irish protocol?
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has planned to present a bill to Parliament this Monday, June 13, to reform the customs regime in Northern Ireland, so difficult to negotiate at the time of Brexit. He thus wants to give satisfaction to the Unionists of Northern Ireland, who refuse any barrier between Great Britain and their territory and are therefore not satisfied with the current situation.
Today, Northern Ireland benefits from a specific regime: it has one foot in the European Union and another in the United Kingdom. Indeed, peace in Northern Ireland between unionists and republicans was achieved in 1998, in particular thanks to the free movement between the north and the south of the island due to the fact that Ireland, like Great Britain, belonged to the single market.
In order not to recreate a border, while protecting access to the European market, the Brexit agreement therefore decided that Northern Ireland could remain in the European customs area, while customs controls would be introduced for goods entering it, including from the island of Great Britain.
► What is the purpose of the reform?
The British Prime Minister believes that the European Union has too strict an application of the Brexit agreement. He says he wants to introduce changes “relatively simple” in the current legislation: he wants to create a “green corridor”, which would allow British goods destined for Northern Ireland to enter unchecked while those transiting through this territory but destined for the European market would still be subject to the checks and taxes corresponding to European law.
The change should convince the Unionists to return to the local executive. They have indeed refused for several months to sit in the government of Northern Ireland to mark their opposition to the protocol.
What can be the consequence of a revision of the agreement?
A revision of the protocol worries Northern Irish Republicans, threatens to provoke tensions with Ireland and trade retaliation from the European Union. Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney spoke to his British counterpart, Liz Truss, on Monday June 13 and regretted that the call only lasted twelve minutes. He felt that a revision of the protocol could “seriously damage relations between Ireland and the United Kingdom”. According to him, the reform will violate “British commitments in terms of international law”.
Vice-President of the European Commission Maros Sefcovic assured for his part that the EU had proposed solutions, but regrets “a unilateral action undermining mutual trust”.
The British minister, however, stuck to her guns and indicated that the United Kingdom remained ready to negotiate with the European Union, but that the British government “can’t wait” to solve the problem of Northern Ireland.