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NI Protocol can be ‘fixed’ claims Boris Johnson, as PM says Troubles legacy plans address legal ‘asymmetry’


Boris Johnson

Boris Johnson

Boris Johnson

The Northern Ireland Protocol can “in principle” work and can be “fixed”, according to the Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

Mr Johnson said the protocol has “enough leeway” to be applied in a common-sense way, but didn’t rule out triggering Article 16 depending on “what the EU brings forward”.

Speaking to BBC NI, Mr Johnson said it was a “fair point” when he was challenged about having been the one who negotiated and signed up to the post-Brexit agreement, but said he did so with an “optimistic view of human nature” and believed the EU would “want to respect the Belfast Good Friday Agreement”.

During the interview Mr Johnson also touched on his government’s legacy proposals, claiming there is currently an “asymmetry” in the legal system when dealing with Troubles cases.

The Prime Minister’s remarks come after the three main unionist leaders earlier this week signed a joint declaration vowing to oppose the protocol.

The trading agreement is the means by which a hard border is avoided on the island of Ireland. It sees Northern Ireland continue to follow certain EU rules on goods, and thus it creates a de facto sea border with GB, which has angered unionists.

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The protocol has seen months of protests by loyalists who have demanded the government trigger Article 16.

On Friday Sinn Fein after Communities Minister Deirdre Hargey said she is seeking legal advice over the DUP’s decision to boycott north-south ministerial meetings.

Mr Johnson said he hopes the protocol can be fixed.

“This is not a problem we wanted I’ve got to stress that. The protocol could in principle work, it has got enough leeway in the language for it to be applied in a commonsense way without creating too many checks down the Irish Sea,” he told BBC NI.

“I want to see a real negotiation. I want to see the EU come to the table with some serious proposals to fix it.

“We want something that works for the people of Northern Ireland. Something that reflects the balance of the Good Friday peace agreement, that makes sure you have a system that doesn’t have such a huge number of checks in Belfast and Larne. It means fixing it or ditching it.”

When put to him it was the deal he negotiated, Mr Johnson conceded it was a “very fair point”.

“I perhaps should have realised our EU friends would not implement it in a sensible way.”

Meanwhile, the Prime Minister said proposals to end all Troubles prosecutions under new legacy proposals are an attempt to address an “asymmetry”.

“We don’t want to deny justice to anybody. What we do want to do is to try and heal and to bring people together and to allow for a process of understanding of what happened,” he added.

“I think the reality is that of the killings and the murders in Northern Ireland, probably 90% were the result of terrorist murders on either side of the argument and 10% I'am afraid, were as a result of actions by the forces of law and order including the army.

“It is right that people should pay a price for what they have done. But at the moment there is an asymmetry, because at the moment the 90% of the killers know that there is no chance at all that they will be brought to justice, whereas the 10% do face and have faced for a long time, criminal proceedings of one kind or another.”

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