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Boris Johnson ‘giving into the mob’ over threats to rip up NI Protocol, says Lord Patten

Ex-Tory chairman Lord Patten says Johnson is ‘playing fast and loose’ with peace agreement


Lord Patten

Lord Patten

Lord Patten

Boris Johnson is “giving in to the mob” over Northern Ireland with his threats to tear up the post-Brexit agreement he struck with the EU in 2019, former Tory chairman Chris Patten has said.

Lord Patten, who chaired the Tories from 1990-92 and played an important role in the peace process as head of the Independent Commission on Policing in Northern Ireland, accused the Prime Minister of “playing fast and loose” with the Good Friday Agreement by threatening to override the Northern Ireland Protocol which he negotiated and agreed with the EU less than three years ago.

Last week the Government tabled a Bill at Westminster that would empower ministers to override much of the contentious post-Brexit trading regime it agreed with the EU in the withdrawal talks.

He said Mr Johnson’s confrontational stance on the protocol was driven by the desire to curry favour with the DUP and Tory right-wingers, rather than the national interest, and had sacrificed the UK’s hopes of winning the trust of Brussels.

“To play to the hardcore in the DUP really is dangerous,” he told LBC radio. “You’re actually giving into the mob in a really significant and unattractive way.

“If they trusted us more, the EU would be prepared to go even further, I think, in negotiating reasonable terms. I think they’re prepared to do that to a considerable extent anyway, whether or not they trust us, but the fact that they don’t trust us makes it all the more difficult.

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“Why should we expect them to trust this government when we don’t trust this government?”

A second term for Mr Johnson at the head of an “English Nationalist government” would “hasten the break-up of the Union”, making it more likely that Scotland and Northern Ireland would leave the UK, he said.

Instead, he said he would prefer to see “a coalition which holds the Union together” led by “a decent, competent, generous, spirited, sensible political force in the middle — which nobody is, at present, providing”.

Meanwhile, DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson has met with members of the Foreign Press Association in London to brief them on why his party wants the protocol replaced.

He said: “The NI Protocol was doomed from its inception as it was foisted upon Northern Ireland without the support of unionists. No agreement in the history of Northern Ireland has succeeded unless it could secure cross community support.

“London, Dublin and Brussels must recognise that it was a gross error in judgment to attempt to steamroller over the concerns of unionists. That is not how peace is made and it is not how a peace process is cemented.”

Sir Jeffrey said if the Government’s bill to override parts of the protocol “becomes law, alongside regulations, it will remove that long shadow of the protocol from Northern Ireland. It will, in our view, allow a restoration of the equilibrium in Northern Ireland”.

Elsewhere, Liz Truss has said the protocol legislation is “both necessary and lawful”, warning “we simply can’t allow the situation to drift”.

Foreign Secretary Ms Truss told MPs “we remain open to negotiations with the EU”, but added “in the absence of the EU being willing to change the protocol, we are pressing ahead with legislation”.

She said: “We have been clear with the EU that the Northern Ireland  Protocol needs to change in order to uphold the Belfast Good Friday Agreement, ensure that we have free flow of goods from east to west and also protect the north-south relationship.”

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