Sky News presenter Niall Paterson, interviewing the foreign secretary this morning, asked Liz Truss, 46, if the Government had signed the original protocol agreement simply because they “needed to get Brexit done”. Ms Truss said there were “very serious issues” that had not been foreseeable, such as the lack of a formed NI Executive, that were making renegotiations with the European Union necessary. It comes as the Government published its Northern Ireland Protocol Bill on Monday.
Mr Paterson said: “You suggest that things are getting worse but all of the problems that have been identified right now in Northern Ireland were identified prior to the ratification of the NI protocol.
“Isn’t the simple truth that you all knew it was a bad deal when you signed up to it but you needed to get Brexit done?
“You then got Brexit done intending, as you are currently doing, to wriggle out of it in the way that you currently are.”
Ms Truss said: “We are addressing very serious issues in Northern Ireland that have emerged over the past two years.
“They have caused problems of political instability, as we can see from the fact the Executive has not formed.
“They’ve caused economic and trade problems in Northern Ireland.
“The solution we’re putting forward does not make the EU any worse off. It protects the EU’s single market at the same time as fixing these problems in Northern Ireland.
“So we are working on a practical solution that works for everybody. Yes, we want to persuade the EU to negotiate with us, to change the protocol to achieve that, but we cannot allow this situation in Northern Ireland to drift.”
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Business leaders have urged Boris Johnson not to enter a “damaging trade war” with the EU after the Government set out its plans to override post-Brexit arrangements governing Northern Ireland yesterday.
The European Commission responded to the publication on Monday with an announcement that it intends to re-open legal action against the UK which has been on hold since September.
Commission vice president Maros Sefcovic hinted at further measures saying the unilateral action by the UK had undermined the trust needed for the effective operation of its post-Brexit trade deal with Brussels.
He said Northern Ireland firms that enjoy access to the EU single market under the terms of the protocol could now see that put at risk.
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The Prime Minister insisted the Bill contained only minor, bureaucratic changes, while Downing Street said it was an “insurance mechanism” in case a negotiated agreement with the EU could not be found.
However, Stephen Phipson, chief executive of Make UK, the manufacturers’ organisation, said business needed both sides to urgently get round the negotiating table to agree a “pragmatic” settlement.
He said: “We recognise that the protocol in the current state does need to be changed.
“But the way to do this is not to start a trade war with the EU in the middle of a financial crisis which would be damaging for both British and EU businesses alike and put further strain on already stretched supply chains.”