Letter: Why UK should stick to Northern Ireland protocol

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The UK’s plans to enact legislation that would grant ministers the powers to override parts of the Northern Ireland protocol that they dislike are a spectacular error of judgment and strategy (Report, April 22).

Not only would any such legislation clearly and unambiguously put the UK in breach of its international obligations under the withdrawal agreement agreed between the UK and the EU, namely Article 4, but it would also undermine trust with our European partners at a time when the UK and the EU should be working together on vastly more important things.

Unilateralism like this does incalculable damage to a rules-based international order and is a gift to those leaders who do everything they can to destroy it. What, if any, authority will the UK have on a world stage if it simply overrides international treaties it dislikes?

When we were renegotiating the protocol in the autumn of 2019, civil servants, myself included, advised Boris Johnson, the prime minister, that there were serious consequences of the type of arrangement that he wished to agree for Northern Ireland. To claim the UK signed the protocol “on the basis that it would be reformed”, as Brexit opportunities minister Jacob Rees-Mogg said last week, is rewriting the history.

There are elements of the protocol that create genuine challenges for the people and businesses of Northern Ireland. But it is only by negotiated agreement with the EU — not senseless unilateralism — that these problems can be fixed. The government’s plans will do nothing to resolve them.

Anton Spisak
Senior Fellow
The Tony Blair Institute for Global Change
London EC1, UK

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