- Jacob Rees-Mogg has claimed the EU is not negotiating with the Northern Ireland protocol “in good faith.”
- The minister for Brexit opportunities told Sky News this justified the UK’s plans to rip the border agreement up.
- Rees-Mogg defended the DUP’s “reasonable” position.
A government minister has accused the European Union of not being “willing to negotiate in good faith” as justification for plans to rip up the Northern Ireland protocol.
Jacob Rees-Mogg, the minister for Brexit opportunities, told Sky News that the UK would not have to resort to such a move if Brussels had been more flexible in resolving issues with the border agreement.
Rees-Mogg played down criticism of the UK reneging on an agreement struck less than three years ago, saying: “The agreement itself provides for updating the protocol – that is in the text. [It can] be updated to be made more efficient and seamless, and that hasn’t happened. The EU hasn’t delivered that.”
The implementation period would have allowed sufficient time to find solutions “had there been good faith on the side of the EU,” the minister added.
“The agreement itself provided for updates. The EU has not been willing to negotiate in good faith.”
The UK is preparing legislation that will supersede the protocol, arguing that the current situation, which includes checks on goods travelling from Britain to Northern Ireland, undermines the integrity of the UK.
Boris Johnson is expected to deliver a speech early next week that will “float” these plans, followed by a statement from Foreign Secretary Liz Truss.
Truss told the EU on Thursday that the UK had “no choice but to act” after Brussels chief Maros Sefcovic “confirmed there was no room to expand the EU negotiating mandate or introduce new proposals to reduce the overall level of trade friction.”
Although the EU has threatened the UK with retaliation – including cutting all ties except in dealing with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine – Rees-Mogg stressed there were “provisions within the treaty for unilateral changes to the protocol.”
He noted that the EU had “invoked Article 16 itself in relation to the vaccines during the pandemic”.
Asked about plans by the DUP not to nominate an assembly speaker for Stormont, preventing a new executive from being formed, Rees-Mogg said Sir Jeffrey Donaldson’s position was “reasonable.”
“We cannot allow the functioning of the European Union to undermine the UK,” he added.
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