UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Saturday defended his plans to override parts of the Brexit Agreement in the face of what he has described as a threat by the European Union to impose a food blockade in Northern Ireland.
On Wednesday, the British Government presented in Parliament a domestic market bill giving it the possibility to take unilateral decisions on matters pertaining to trade with Northern Ireland, a British province.
The bill runs counter to parts of the agreement regulating the UK’s withdrawal from the EU, and complicates negotiations, begun in March, on future EU-UK ties.
In a column published in the Daily Telegraph, Johnson said he had been forced to make the move which, he admitted, violated international law. He wrote that he was now hearing that, unless his government agreed to the EU’s terms in the trade negotiations, the EU would use an “extreme interpretation of the Northern Ireland protocol to impose a full-scale trade border down the Irish Sea,” which separates the province from the rest of Britain.
He said he had learnt that not only would the EU impose customs duties on goods transiting through Britain to Northern Ireland, but that it could also stop transporting food products from Britain to Northern Ireland.
“I have to say that we never seriously believed the EU would be willing to use a treaty, negotiated in good faith, to blockade one part of the UK, to cut it off; or that they would actually threaten to destroy the economic and territorial integrity of the UK,” he wrote.
Such an interpretation would severely endanger peace and stability in the British province, where three decades of bloody troubles ended in 1998 with the signing of a peace agreement, Johnson said.
He urged Conservative parliamentarians to support his bill, which will come up for discussion in parliament on Monday, but some have expressed misgivings at seeing their country come back on its commitments.
Britain cannot leave the theoretical power to carve it up in the hands of an international body, Johnson said, adding that it was vital to pass the bill and put an end to that possibility.