Government would be 'stupid' to tear up Northern Ireland Protocol, Lord Mandelson warns

26 April 2022, 19:23

By Patrick Grafton-Green

Lord Mandelson has warned the Government would be "stupid" to tear up the Northern Ireland Protocol, saying the reaction of the European Union would be "quick and severe".

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The plans would jeopardize "peace and stability" in Northern Ireland and intensify the cost of living crisis, the former cabinet minister said.

Three government sources told LBC that next month's Queen's Speech will reference plans to give UK ministers the power to unilaterally ditch the Protocol - a key part of the Brexit deal signed in 2019.

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Legislation being planned would allow ministers to suspend checks on goods travelling between Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

"I cannot believe they would do anything so stupid for two reasons," Lord Mandelson said.

He said although "the trade agreement that we have with the European Union is weak enough as it is and gives us few trade advantages" it is "nonetheless very, very important to businesses and jobs in Britain".

He added: "To put that in jeopardy after all the other shocks that we have received - the Covid shock, the Ukraine shock, the energy shock - would incredibly detrimental to our economy."

Lord Mandelson said the Northern Ireland Protocol was "not perfect" and "could do with a little bit of adjustment in the way in which it is applied", but ripping it up would "put into question the peace and stability in Northern Ireland".

He said it "has been agreed by the British government, is part of an international treaty signed by the British government and if we were unilaterally to step back from it the reaction of the European Union would be quick and severe".

The former Labour MP accepted the story "may just be another Johnsonian wheeze".

He said: "The Prime Minister is not known for consistency, he doesn't care about detail and he doesn't mind which set of rules he rides a coach and horses through.

"He's a journalist actually more than a policymaker and every day brings a new story which he wants to command the news schedule with and this just may be that story."