Politics, World, Europe

UK to scrap 'ludicrous' Brexit border curbs: Premier

Boris Johnson says Northern Ireland protocol misinterpreted by EU

Karim El-Bar   | 20.04.2021
UK to scrap 'ludicrous' Brexit border curbs: Premier

LONDON

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said in an interview that he is trying to remove “ludicrous” Brexit border checks on Northern Ireland.

The Brexit deal that Johnson signed with the EU in January 2020 included a Northern Ireland protocol that effectively placed a border down the Irish Sea between Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

The protocol has been met with fury by unionists in Northern Ireland who see it as weakening the region’s ties with the UK.

Tensions spilled over at Easter with violent protests in unionist areas.

Johnson made his comments in an interview in Northern Ireland with the BBC Spotlight program that will be released in full on Tuesday evening.

The premier said the government is now “sandpapering” the protocol, which he claimed has been misinterpreted by the EU.

“What we are doing is what I think is removing the unnecessary protuberances and barriers that have grown up and we are getting the barnacles off the thing and sandpapering into shape,” Johnson told the program, which was filmed to mark the centenary of Northern Ireland’s creation.

He threatened to trigger Article 16, which was put in the Brexit deal to allow either the UK or EU to temporarily suspend the Northern Ireland protocol.

The use of the article is a highly sensitive issue, with the EU’s threat to do so earlier this year over vaccine supplies causing widespread diplomatic concern and condemnation.

“If it looks as though the EU is going to be very dogmatic about it and we continue to [be in an] absurd situation so you can’t bring in rose bushes with British soil into Northern Ireland, you can’t bring British sausages into Northern Ireland, then frankly I’m going to, we’ll have to take further steps,” Johnson said.

Both the UK and EU have said they are in intense technical talks to try and make the protocol work.

Irish Taoiseach Micheal Martin told the same program that it was dramatic to claim the protocol threatened the breakup of the UK.

To that end, both Johnson and Martin ruled out any immediate border poll, the name given to a referendum on the reunification of the island of Ireland.

Johnson said there would not be a border poll for a “very, very long time to come,” while Martin said the idea of a referendum in the near future was “explosive and divisive.”

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