London plans legal breach of contract

IIn a speech on Tuesday, British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss wants to introduce legislation that will override the provisions of the Brexit treaty. As the FAZ learned from the Foreign Office on Thursday, the law is not intended to “abolish” the so-called Northern Ireland Protocol, but to make “technical changes”. In future, “green and red lanes” for goods imported from Britain are to be introduced at Northern Irish border points. The green lane is for goods intended to remain in Northern Ireland; they no longer need to be checked and no longer need to comply with EU product standards. For goods that are on their way to the Republic of Ireland and therefore to the EU, the agreed controls would continue.

Truss, with the Prime Minister’s backing, took the plunge after negotiations with the European Commission “failed” and it “lost patience”, he said. In the morning, Truss had replied with “regret” that European negotiator Maros Sefcovic saw “no room for new proposals aimed at reducing trade frictions” in Northern Ireland during a telephone conversation.

Pressure from Washington is also mounting

The government apparently saw its initiative legally secure. According to the Times, Attorney General Suella Braverman obtained expert advice and gave the government the go-ahead. Unlike last year, when the government described its threats to withdraw from the protocol as a “very specific and limited breach of international law”, it now wants to argue that it is in line with international law. According to this view, it would be “legal” to override the Brexit deal through national legislation because its implementation by the EU would be “disproportionate”. Import controls would jeopardize the Good Friday Agreement as a de facto trade border had been created, fueling social unrest. The peace treaty that ended three decades of civil war in Northern Ireland in 1998 was of “original significance” and therefore more important than the exit deal with the EU.

The European Commission has proposed reducing checks by 80% and cutting formalities by half. These figures are disputed in London. Concessions are not enough for the government either. The bill was reportedly passed by the Cabinet with the help of Prime Minister Boris Johnson despite objections from ministers including Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak. The State Department does not expect the law to be passed until the fall. Even that is “optimistic”. He met with strong criticism in both the House of Commons and the House of Lords. There is also uncertainty within the government over whether the EU will react to the announcement of the law with retaliatory measures.

After several EU officials criticized the initiative and threatened countermeasures, pressure from Washington also increased. In a letter to Truss, two Democrat MPs on European policy – Bill Keating and Brendan Boyle – announced that the White House would soon send a representative from Northern Ireland to Belfast. This is “consistent with our historical role as arbiter”. President Joe Biden, who has Irish roots, had called on Johnson through a spokeswoman to show “leadership” and continue negotiations with the EU.

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