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UK Government could override Northern Ireland Protocol after Liz Truss concludes negotiations have ‘run out of road’


A sign protesting against the NI Protocol in Larne town centre

A sign protesting against the NI Protocol in Larne town centre

A sign protesting against the NI Protocol in Larne town centre

Negotiations with the European Union over changes to the Northern Ireland Protocol have almost “run out of road” with the UK Government suggesting they could override the agreement.

According to the Sunday Telegraph, Foreign Secretary Liz Truss has made the assessment on the status of negotiations after a phone call with the EU’s Maros Sefcovic in which he said Brussels will “never” back down on the protocol.

Last week, Secretary of State Brandon Lewis said a move against the protocol is unlikely to feature in the Queen’s Speech.

Mr Lewis told ITV’s Peston show the Government wants to resolve issues with the protocol by agreement with the EU.

However, according to a source close to Ms Truss quoted in the newspaper, the government could act after a conversation with Mr Sefcovic last week when he “made clear... that the EU did not have, and in his view would never have, a mandate to renegotiate the Protocol or to go beyond their existing proposals”.

The source close to Ms Truss said: “The admission made by Sefcovic on the call is alarming. Liz’s first, second and third priority in all this is protecting peace made and stability in Northern Ireland.

“Clearly, the situation is getting increasingly urgent, and the feeling is we can’t let this crisis drag on and on.

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“It feels like we have run out of road with negotiations unless something significant happens in terms of the EU changing its position.

“It’s incredibly disheartening that despite the political and economic damage the Protocol is causing in Northern Ireland, the Commission continues to adopt such a rigid and hard-line negotiating position.

“The Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement is being undermined and the situation is now very serious. Both the Prime Minister and Foreign Secretary have always been clear that action will be taken if solutions can’t be found.

“The Assembly elections are now over and we need to see the EU move significantly. Our focus has been, and will continue to be, preserving peace and stability in Northern Ireland.”

DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson has made the issue of the protocol a key demand in any talks that begin around forming an Executive following the final election results which saw Sinn Fein emerge as the largest party in Stormont.

Writing in the newspaper, Mr Donaldson said: “Given that the political institutions in Northern Ireland operate on the basis of cross-community consensus, the lack of any unionist support for the Protocol means that it is unworkable as it does not command sufficient consensus.

“The electorate has spoken. The view of unionism is clear. Now is the moment for the Government to act. No more words. It’s time for action.”

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