On Monday 13 June 2022 Cambridge for Europe issued the following statement in response to the announcement by Liz Truss that the UK Government will introduce legislation to unilaterally change the Northern Ireland Protocol
“The announcement today by Liz Truss of legislation to unilaterally change important parts of the Northern Ireland Protocol is deeply worrying. There is no doubt that this legislation will break international law, risk further instability in Northern Ireland, and poison the relationship between the UK and EU.
The Johnson Government signed up to the Protocol, part of their Brexit treaty with the EU, with their eyes wide open, even boasting during the 2019 General election campaign that it was part of their “great” and “oven-ready” Brexit deal. It’s obvious now that to “get Brexit done” they lied to the people of Northern Ireland, to the EU, to Parliament, and to the UK electorate.
Now the Johnson Government plans to compound the lies of their past with faithlessness in the present. This legislation will deny the people of Northern Ireland, through their elected political representatives, their say on the protocol as promised in 2019. Did Liz Truss and Boris Johnson miss the fact that 60% of the MLA’s elected to the Northern Ireland Assembly last month support the Protocol, as do the overwhelming majority of Northern Ireland’s people and businesses?
Perhaps they also forget that 56 % of the electorate in Northern Ireland voted against Brexit in 2016. Unilaterally scrapping parts of the Northern Ireland Protocol will inflame community tensions in Northern Ireland, where many non-Unionist voters already feel completely ignored by the Conservative Government.
But the consequences would not be limited to Northern Ireland, as the EU may take retaliatory actions and suspend parts of the UK-EU trade deal, further damaging a UK economy already teetering on the brink of recession. Exports from the UK to the EU are already well down on pre-Brexit levels, and the last thing UK businesses need now is more uncertainty. Even now the UK’s valuable participation in the EU’s flagship scientific programme Horizon Europe has been thrown into grave doubt by the UK Government’s protocol posturing.
The US Government has made its support for the protocol crystal clear, and breaking it will scupper chances of a UK-US trade deal anytime soon. This Northern Ireland protocol stunt would be damaging at any time, but with Russia’s war on Ukraine still raging, and the need for unity among democracies urgent, it Is difficult to think of a worse time.
For two years now we’ve seen threat after threat from the UK Government about the protocol, as they repeatedly fail to deliver on commitments they made in it. The EU have already made changes to the protocol in response to consultations with businesses and communities in Northern Ireland, and have made it clear that they are willing to make further changes, while respecting the principles of the agreement signed in 2019.
The EU knows full well that the legislation being introduced by Truss and Johnson to unilaterally change the Northern Ireland Protocol has nothing to do with the wellbeing of Northern Ireland, and everything to do with the internal power struggles of the Tory party.
It’s high time the UK Government stopped this dangerous and divisive approach to the Northern Ireland protocol and started negotiating with the EU in good faith.”