The EU has previously threatened to suspend the trade and cooperation agreement (TCA) if Britain unilaterally suspends Northern Ireland’s trade rules. But DUP MP Ian Paisley Jr told Express.co.uk that he “doesn’t believe” the bloc would do that, urging the UK Government to “show the courage” to “call Europe’s bluff”. He argued that the Protocol has “clouded” the benefits of Brexit, putting pressure on Johnson’s Government to “set [it] to the side”.
The UK has been locked in talks with the EU over the Northern Ireland Protocol – which was agreed as part of the withdrawal agreement to avoid a hard border in Ireland post-Brexit – since October 2021.
It allows Northern Ireland to remain within the EU’s single market for goods but it has faced criticism because a border was effectively created between Great Britain and Northern Ireland down the Irish Sea.
The border has led to delays, supermarket shortages and increased costs for businesses in Northern Ireland.
But it was recently claimed that the Government plans to use the Queen’s Speech, taking place later this month, to threaten to scrap the Northern Ireland Protocol.
Plans are reportedly being drawn up to give UK ministers the power to unilaterally remove key parts of the agreement signed with Brussels in 2019.
According to Government sources – who spoke to LBC – the planned legislation would grant ministers the power to suspend checks on goods travelling between Great Britain and Northern Ireland – one of the key issues with the Protocol.
The impact of the new legislation would reportedly be even more far-reaching than the triggering of Article 16, which would still require checks on some goods travelling between Great Britain and Northern Ireland.
The new plans would bypass Article 16 and the Brexit agreement entirely, replacing it with new UK legislation.
Speaking to Express.co.uk, Mr Paisley said: “I think it is very clear that the EU’s negotiating position has been to simply stick their heads in the sand and to tell us that the Protocol has worked, that the protocol needs to be increased.
“I spoke last week to Liz Truss and she told me that the negotiations have finished, that Europe has decided to give no further movement on it.
“The Government has constantly told us that they’re being patient and they’re working with Europe and frankly my patience has run out. The patience of people has run out.
“The pocketbook of the public exchequer, being able to constantly fund the Protocol has run out.
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“The Government has now got to take the unilateral action of setting the Protocol to the side.
“Europe is never going to move on this.
“Europe is going to keep kicking the can down the road and delaying and stalling.”
He added: “The whole point of Brexit is better trading relationships.
“This has stymied our trade in the UK and put a constitutional question mark over the Britishness of Northern Ireland.
“Let’s get this sorted out as quickly as possible and let’s move forward. And I think her majesty’s government must do that.
“I think this has clouded for many people what should be a really positive outcome for Brexit.
“They want to get Brexit done – well they can never truly say they’ve left if part of the UK is left in the EU.
“Therefore the sooner the British Government grapples with this and sorts it out, I think the better.
“What are the consequences? Is Europe going to remove itself from the trade agreement it has with the UK over something that amounts to less than 2% of its trade?
“I don’t believe it is and I think that the Government has got to call Europe’s bluff and show the courage to do that.”