UK will have 'necessity to act' over NI Brexit deal if EU doesn't compromise, warns Boris

15 May 2022, 22:04 | Updated: 16 May 2022, 09:03

The Government will be forced to act, Boris has said.
The Government will be forced to act, Boris has said. Picture: Alamy

By Emma Soteriou

The UK will be forced to "act" if the EU is not willing to compromise over the Northern Ireland protocol, Boris Johnson has said.

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The Prime Minister, who is set to travel to Belfast on Monday for emergency talks, said the Government remained open to "genuine dialogue" with Brussels.

However, he said that if there was no movement on the EU side, the Government will set out its "next steps" in a statement to Parliament "in the coming days".

His comments come amid fears of a looming trade war with the EU.

Ministers are reported to be tabling emergency legislation as early as this week to override the protocol, which requires customs checks on goods moving from Great Britain to Northern Ireland.

The agreement was intended to maintain an open border while protecting the EU single market.

EU leaders have said such a move would violate Britain's international treaty obligations under the Withdrawal Agreement signed by Mr Johnson and would lead to retaliatory measures.

Read more: No compromise on Northern Ireland protocol as Truss vows to rip up Brexit pact

Read more: UK faces 'trade war with EU' if Govt rip up Northern Ireland protocol, Lord Ricketts warns

Boris made the warning ahead of his trip to Northern Ireland
Boris made the warning ahead of his trip to Northern Ireland. Picture: Alamy

Writing in the Belfast Telegraph, Mr Johnson said there was still a "sensible landing spot" where the interests of all sides are protected - including the integrity of the EU single market, which the protocol is designed to maintain.

However, he explained that it would require movement on the part of the EU.

"We have been told by the EU that it is impossible to make the changes to the protocol text to actually solve these problems in negotiations - because there is no mandate to do so," he said.

WATCH Iain Dale's Northern Ireland special live from Belfast on Global player tomorrow night at 7pm

"We will always keep the door wide open to genuine dialogue. There is without question a sensible landing spot in which everyone's interests are protected.

"I hope the EU's position changes. If it does not, there will be a necessity to act.

"The Government has a responsibility to provide assurance that the consumers, citizens and businesses of Northern Ireland are protected in the long-term.

"We will set out a more detailed assessment and next steps to Parliament in the coming days".

The Northern Ireland protocol was part of the UK's withdrawal deal from the EU.
The Northern Ireland protocol was part of the UK's withdrawal deal from the EU. Picture: Alamy

It comes after Foreign Secretary Liz Truss made little progress with the EU during negotiations on Thursday.

Similarly to the Prime Minister, Ms Truss warned that if the EU did not show the "requisite flexibility" over the Northern Ireland Protocol the UK would have "no choice but to act" alone.

It came after she spoke with European Commission vice-president Maros Sefcovic, with a Foreign Office spokesman saying she made clear that the UK's "overriding priority" was to protect peace and stability in Northern Ireland.

She told Mr Sefcovic the protocol had become "the greatest obstacle" to forming a new Northern Ireland Executive.

However, Mr Sefcovic later claimed that Ms Truss had failed to meet the EU half way during the talks.

He said she had "not taken the opportunity to explore fully the flexibilities the commission has presented".

"There has been no engagement at all on these issues for the UK," he said.

"Unilateral action effectively disapplying the protocol is not a solution or a way forward."