Liz Truss warns EU they have 72 hours to end Northern Ireland dispute or the UK will scrap the protocol

The Foreign Secretary has warned the EU that the dispute over Northern Ireland 'cannot drag on'

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Foreign Secretary Liz Truss is set to tell the EU that the dispute over Northern Ireland cannot drag on, after warning she will “not shy away” from taking action as she accused the EU of proposing solutions that would “take us backwards”.

As ministers consider whether to introduce legislation overriding parts of the deal, senior Cabinet member Michael Gove warned “no option is off the table”.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz has stressed “no-one should unilaterally cancel, break or in any way attack the settlement”.

Amid suggestions unilateral action from the UK could spark a trade war against the backdrop of the invasion of Ukraine, Mr Johnson told BBC News: “Let’s face it, we’re talking about really in the scheme of things, a very, very small part of the whole European economy and I think 0.4% of the value of the whole of the EU economy in Northern Ireland.

Liz Truss
Liz Truss

“It is crazy. I didn’t think there’s any need for drama. This is something that just needs to be fixed.”

At an earlier press conference in Sweden, Mr Johnson said: “The most important agreement is the 25-year-old Belfast Good Friday Agreement.

“That is crucial for the stability of our country of the UK, of Northern Ireland.

“And it’s got to be that means that things have got to command across community support.”

A White House spokesman stressed the need for talks to continue to resolve the issues.

“The best path forward is a pragmatic one that requires courage, cooperation, and leadership,” he added.

“We urge the parties to continue engaging in dialogue to resolve differences and bring negotiations to a successful conclusion.”

Meanwhile, Democratic Unionist Party leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson repeated his call on the Government to take action.

DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson talking media on College Green, central London, following the State Opening of Parliament.
DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson talking media on College Green, central London, following the State Opening of Parliament.

“The sooner that happens, the better.

“The protocol is not supported by any unionist MLA elected to the Assembly last week.

“We can’t go on with the situation where there is no consensus at all for this protocol,” he told the BBC.

After the republican Sinn Fein party became the largest party in Stormont, he is refusing to re-enter the powersharing government until issues with the protocol are dealt with.

Ms Truss is expected to reiterate in a call with European Commission vice president Maros Sefcovic on Thursday the risk to the Good Friday Agreement and warn that the situation cannot drag on.

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “I think we’re getting ahead of ourselves.

“We want nothing but good relations with our EU partners, but I’m not going to get into speculation about what might happen down the line.”

He said “some relatively minor concessions” from the EU in the past “show that, where there was willing, change could be achieved”.

Asked if the Government is drawing up controversial new legislation, the spokesman said: “I wouldn’t get into, on any issue, the ins and outs of policy development.

“This is something we’re looking at closely, it’s a serious issue, all options are on the table.”

Officials working for Ms Truss are drawing up draft legislation to unilaterally remove the need for checks on all goods being sent from Britain for use in Northern Ireland.

The PA news agency was told that Ms Truss is poised to take further action in the coming weeks if negotiations with the EU continue to stall.

The proposed law would allow businesses in Northern Ireland to disregard EU rules and regulations and remove the power of the European Court of Justice to rule on issues relating to the region.

Crucially, it would in parts override the protocol agreed by Mr Johnson in 2019 and mean the UK had breached its obligations under the Brexit agreement.

But it has been argued that the protocol will not be completely overridden, with measures instead being considered to ease the issues on the ground in Northern Ireland.