UK has ‘absolute right’ to change Northern Ireland’s trade rules after Brexit, says company secretary | political news

The British government has “definitely the right” to tear apart parts of post-Brexit trade arrangements in Northern Ireland, Kwarsi Kwarteng has maintained.

Speaking to Sky News’ Sophy Ridge On Sunday programme, the business secretary also accused Brussels of being “unreasonable” in his approach to renegotiating the Northern Ireland Protocol.

But Irish Foreign Secretary Simon Coveney said “sabre rattling” and “grandstanding” at Westminster were not how problems would be solved and that the UK would unilaterally make changes to a violation of international law.

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He pointed out that his country was also “frustrated” by the consequences of Brexitwhich he said had cost hundreds of millions of euros and threatened the peace process.

It comes as Boris Johnson travels to Belfast on Monday for post-crisis crisis talks DUP blocked the formation of a new power-sharing government in Stormont in protest against the protocol.

Unionists strongly oppose the deal because it requires controls on goods going from Britain to Northern Ireland in order to keep Ireland’s border open in line with the Good Friday peace deal.

But Sinn Fein – now the largest party in the Northern Ireland Assembly following the May 5 elections – has accused the prime minister of “camming in” with the DUP and backing its “blocking tactics”.

UK ministers have repeatedly said they are prepared to invoke Article 16 of the protocol and unilaterally suspend some of the arrangements if a compromise cannot be found to reduce the impact of the bureaucracy, which has been accused of and fuel tensions in the community.

Mr. Kwarteng told Ridge, “As far as I’m concerned, we have absolutely the right to invoke Article 16 and reopen or re-examine the protocol.”

He said: “The protocol itself says it can be unilaterally revoked if it turns out not to work.

“And it’s clear that if political stability is our number one priority, and people are saying they won’t do power-sharing if it isn’t changed, we need to think very carefully about how we can change it.”

Mr Kwarteng continued: “I honestly think the EU is unreasonable.

“They won’t show much flexibility and that’s why we’re in the position we’re in.”

Read more:
What is the Northern Ireland Protocol and why is it important?

He downplayed the likelihood of a trade war, adding: “Any tariff situation should go to arbitrators. It’s not something they can do randomly, arbitrarily.

But Coveney told Ridge: “The EU wants to keep negotiating, wants to show flexibility, wants to make compromises.”

He said: “Ireland is also frustrated. We are now dealing with the consequences of a decision by the British people about our own country that has cost us hundreds of millions of euros, the peace process and its institutions on the island of Ireland.

“If we focus on frustrations, we have to think beyond Westminster.”

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‘Last’ thing the EU wants is tension in the UK

He added: “There is no way the EU can compromise if the UK threatens unilateral action to pass national legislation to set aside international obligations under an international treaty of which, remember, the UK was the main designer. , along with the EU.”

Mr Coveney continued: “And we can reach a landing zone if we work together.

“But you know, saber rattling and grandeur at Westminster to increase the tension is not the way to do it.

“At a time when the world needs the western world to be united, to work together to solve problems together. This is a problem we need to solve together. The last thing Ireland wants, the last thing the EU needs tension with a country of the size and influence of the United Kingdom.

“So let’s work together all summer to resolve these issues and get the institutions in Northern Ireland back on track.”

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Mary Lou McDonald, president of Sinn Fein, criticized the UK government’s stance, saying: “It’s very dangerous, it’s reckless, it’s a game of brinkmanship, very cynically performed by a Tory government in London that doesn’t care about the island of Ireland, to the north or south.”

Jeremy Hunt, former health minister and party leader, told the BBC: “I think we can understand why they are annoyed that we are asking for this protocol to be changed so quickly, but the protocol itself envisioned the possibility that you might have to change it. in a situation where there was a risk to peace and stability, and we don’t have a functioning government in Northern Ireland.”

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