London will introduce new legislation in the coming weeks to “fix” post-Brexit trade arrangements for Northern Ireland because of the pressure it is placing on the 1998 Good Friday peace Agreement, UK foreign secretary Liz Truss has told parliament.
However, Truss insisted the UK had not given up on talks with Brussels over the arrangements, which the UK government negotiated with the EU before the UK’s departure from the EU.
Truss told the House of Commons that the UK government was “open to a negotiated solution” but that the situation was too urgent to delay any longer.
Truss stressed she believed the proposals were “legal in international law” and supported Britain’s “prior obligations” to uphold the peace pact. The EU has reacted with alarm to London’s suggestion it could break a deal it signed.
Northern Irish parties met Prime Minister Boris Johnson in Northern Ireland on Monday to discuss a political tug of war over the arrangements, known as the Northern Ireland Protocol. The deal imposes checks on goods travelling into the region from Great Britain.
The Democratic Unionist Party has boycotted power-sharing institutions established under the Good Friday Agreement that ended the three decades-long Troubles until its demands on the protocol are met. It wants an end to the customs border imposed in the Irish Sea, which it says is undermining Northern Ireland’s place in the UK.
Truss said the “new revised Protocol” would include a “trusted trader scheme” and resolve problems with the movement of goods into the region, regulation, VAT, subsidy control and governance. It would also protect the EU’s single market, she insisted.
“Our preference is to reach a negotiated outcome with the EU,” Truss said. “As yet, the EU have been unwilling to open the protocol.”
Fundamental change was necessary, she added.
“The protocol itself does need to change,” Truss said.
However, although Jeffrey Donaldson, leader of the DUP, praised Truss’s announcement as “a good start”, he indicated more would be needed before it returned to the Stormont assembly and power-sharing executive.
“The Foreign Secretary will know that actions speak louder than words,” he told the Commons.