PM: Northern Ireland protocol shake up won't break international treaties

4 July 2022, 22:28

Boris insisted the Northern Ireland protocol would not break treaties
Boris insisted the Northern Ireland protocol would not break treaties. Picture: Parliament TV

By Emma Soteriou

The UK's shake-up of the Northern Ireland protocol will not break international treaties, Boris Johnson has insisted.

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Mr Johnson explained that few global leaders raised the issue of the Northern Ireland Protocol with him at recent summits.

It came after opposition leader Sir Keir Starmer said the Prime Minister was "undermining Britain's moral and political credibility" in his approach to the issue.

Speaking in the House of Commons on Monday, Mr Johnson said: "[Sir Keir] talks about the UK breaking international treaties, actually, I don't know what he's talking about there, but [if] he was talking about what we're doing in respect the Northern Ireland Protocol then that is not what's happening.

"We believe our prior obligation, which I would have thought he supported, is to the balance of the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement, that's what we're supporting.

"He talks about the UK's diplomatic ability to win people over. It was very striking in the conversations I had with leaders from around the world how few of them, if any, raised the issue of the Northern Ireland Protocol and how much people want to see common sense and no new barriers to trade.

"What the UK is doing is trying to reduce pointless barriers to trade and you'd have thought that he would support that."

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It followed Sir Keir's earlier remarks, in which he said: "Instead of investing in aid that strengthens the [Commonwealth] alliance, [Boris has] cut it.

"Instead of upholding the rule of law that should define the Commonwealth, he reneges on treaties that he's signed, undermining Britain's moral and political credibility when we need our word to carry trust.

"My fear is simple: the vacuum we leave behind will be quickly filled.

"Not by those who share our values, but by those who seek to destroy them.

"We cannot let that happen in Ukraine. We cannot let that happen anywhere."

On Monday evening, Sir Keir went on to set out Labour's five-point plan to 'Make Brexit Work'.

He said the "starting point" is to "sort out the Northern Ireland Protocol".

The party would eliminate "most border checks created by the Tory Brexit deal", he said, and implement a "new veterinary agreement for Agri-products between the UK and EU".

It would also work with business to put in place a "better scheme" to allow low-risk goods to enter Northern Ireland without "unnecessary checks", he said.

The Labour leader admitted Britain would not be able to deliver "completely frictionless trade" with the EU outside of the bloc, but said there are "things we can do" to ease the process.

"Labour would extend that new veterinary agreement to cover all the UK, seeking to build on agreements and mechanisms already in place between the EU and other countries - benefiting our exporters at a stroke," he said.