London to pass laws to change Brexit if no negotiated solution on N. Ireland
Dublin, May 16 (EFE).- British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Monday defended the need to pass laws to be able to revoke certain parts of the Brexit Protocol for Northern Ireland, the mechanism that is hindering the formation of a government to share power in the region.
During a visit to Belfast on Monday, Johnson said that he prefers to deal with the problems the protocol is causing in a “consensual” manner with “our friends and partners” in the European Union.
Saying that the UK does not want to eliminate the protocol and believes that it can be modified to facilitate the passage of goods between Britain and Ireland, Johnson compared the plan to an insurance policy and added that to achieve its goals London must move forward unilaterally to override large portions of the Brexit deal with the EU.
The British premier made his remarks after meeting in the Northern Irish capital with the main political power brokers to discuss the formation of a power-sharing arrangement in the region and his plans to reform the Brexit protocol.
“None of the parties – I spoke to all five parties just now – not one of them likes the way it’s operating, they all think it can be reformed and improved,” he said after the meeting.
But after just 30 minutes of discussion with each of the five political forces in the area, Johnson still left many doubts about how to move forward, with Northern Irish leaders talking about their concern, frustration, lack of confidence and London’s favoritism toward the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP).
The nationalist Sinn Fein, the winner of the recent regional elections, accused the UK and the unionists of fabricating a crisis over the protocol, going on to warn of the dangers of threatening to take “unilateral action.”
Sinn Fein leader Mary Lou McDonald said that she found it incredible that the British government was proposing legislation to violate the law, calling her meeting with Johnson “fairly tough.”
“It’s very clear to us that despite all of the rhetoric from the British government about re-establishing the executive here in the north, that in fact their priority is placating the DUP,” she said, adding that “We … said directly to him that (the) proposed unilateral act of legislating at Westminster is wrong.”
The DUP garnered the second-most votes in the May 5 regional elections and said that it is still waiting for London to provide more details about its action plan if negotiations with the EU do not make progress.
After meeting with Johnson, DUP leader Jeffrey Donaldson emphasized that he wants a government set up in the north as soon as possible but insisted that he wants to see London take “decisive measures” regarding the protocol.
He said that the DUP was waiting to see what London has to say about the matter and then after that the party will discuss it internally.
Meanwhile, The Times reported that London is weighing announcing on Tuesday a law that would allow the authorities to revoke portions of the controversial protocol while keeping open the possibility of invoking Article 16 of the Brexit accord, which allows one of the parties to suspend elements that it believes are harming its economy or the social fabric in its territory.
McDonald said Monday that Johnson did not say anything more on that subject, although her impression was that he seemed inclined to eliminate it, which she said was clearly “not possible” and not legally allowed.
The historic election victory by Sinn Fein, the old political arm of the now-defunct Irish Republican Army and the advocate for Irish reunification, puts the party in position to take the prime ministership in the north, but it needs to make an arrangement with the DUP, as established by the 1998 peace agreement.
The DUP believes that the current operation of the protocol creates economic barriers between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK and undermines the position of the province within the country.
The controversial mechanism, negotiated between London and Brussels as part of the Brexit accord whereby the UK pulled out of the EU, was designed to avoid establishing a physical border between Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic to the south and to ensure the continuity of free trade across the land frontier between the zones.