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Northern Ireland protocol: Truss in new warning to Brussels over NI executive

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Foreign Secretary Liz Truss has warned the EU that unless it shows the ‘required flexibility’ on the Northern Ireland protocol, the UK will have ‘no choice but to act’ ” only.

This is after a call with European Commission Vice President Maros Sefcovic on Thursday.

A Foreign Office spokesperson said Ms Truss had made it clear the UK’s ‘top priority’ was to protect peace and stability in Northern Ireland.

She told Mr Sefcovic that protocol had become “the biggest obstacle” to forming a new Northern Ireland executive.

The DUP refuses to enter a new power-sharing administration with Sinn Fein unless significant changes are made to the protocol that governs post-Brexit trade deals after last week’s Assembly elections. The party declined to confirm whether it will appoint a speaker to the Assembly on Friday.

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However, Mr Sefcovic insisted that there is “no room to expand the EU’s negotiating mandate or introduce new proposals to reduce the overall level of trade friction”.

The spokesperson said: “The Foreign Secretary noted this with regret and said that the situation in Northern Ireland was a matter of internal peace and security for the UK, and if the EU does not did not show the flexibility required to help address these issues, then as a responsible government we would have no choice but to act.”

It was reported late Wednesday that Attorney General Suella Braverman had approved the deletion of large parts of the protocol.

Ms Braverman said legislation to override the Northern Ireland Protocol would be legal because its implementation by the EU is disproportionate and unreasonable – and is causing social unrest, according to the Times.

This means there could be new legislation removing checks on goods traveling from Britain to Northern Ireland.

In his own statement, Mr Sefcovic said: “I am convinced that only joint solutions will work. Unilateral action, effectively de-implementing an international agreement such as the protocol, is simply not acceptable.

Meanwhile, President Biden is reportedly set to appoint a US special envoy to Northern Ireland amid growing concern in Washington over plans to revoke the deal.

In a letter to Truss last night, senior US Congressmen Bill Keating and Brendan Boyle warned the government that the move was in direct contradiction to the wishes of the majority of elected members of the Northern Ireland Assembly.

Mr Keating, who sits on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and Mr Boyle, chairman of the EU caucus in Congress, told Ms Truss that the United States wanted to act as honest brokers in the dispute, but warned that the worst possible outcome of Brexit would be one that led to violence and upheaval in Northern Ireland.

We call on you to uphold your side of the deal and act in good faith within the parameters of international law, they said.

Responding to news of Ms Bravermans’ advice on Thursday morning, DUP MP Sammy Wilson said he was surprised it had taken so long for the UK government to act.

Speaking on the BBC’s Good Morning Ulster radio programme, he said the Withdrawal Agreement already allowed the government to act in the event of significant trade or social unrest.

The government has had the opportunity to do something for a long time and hasn’t done it, well, they don’t welcome it until we know what the government intends to do.

Neale Richmond, Fine Gaels spokesman for EU affairs, accused the UK government of being part of a petty stunt.

Once again playing to their own political base and listening to Sammy I think the UK government has to say nothing will please the DUP the people who pushed Brexit the most said no to all the solutions to a mess that they created themselves.

Elsewhere on Thursday morning, House of Commons Leader Mark Spencer said the UK government “should take action” if Northern Ireland’s stability was hurt by post-Brexit trade deals.

DUP MP Ian Paisley told MPsat Business Questions that the Northern Ireland Protocol “continues to plague Northern Ireland politics”.

Mr Spencer replied: “It’s something the Foreign Secretary has been pursuing for a long time, trying to encourage her EU colleagues to come to the table to find a way forward. She will pursue these plans.

“If the protocol harms the Good Friday Agreement, the UK government will have to take action.”

On Wednesday, the Prime Minister said the Good Friday Agreement was more important than the Northern Ireland Protocol as he dismissed suggestions of a possible escalating response from the European Union as ‘crazy’ .

He said there was no need for “drama” as he doubled down on hints that he could undo elements of the deal.

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