Britain’s war on Brexit protocol fuels support for Irish unity – POLITICO

DUBLIN — The British government’s unreliable handling of Brexit is bringing majority opinion in Northern Ireland closer to a united Ireland, Irish Deputy Prime Minister Leo Varadkar said on Wednesday.

Varadkar said most members of the new Northern Ireland Assembly accept the post-Brexit trade protocol, but Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s threats to break that deal with the EU ignore this reality – and make a more likely future break-up of the United Kingdom.

“If they keep trying to impose things on Northern Ireland that Northern Ireland doesn’t want, surely that pushes more people towards [Irish] nationalism and away from union support. It just seems a bit confusing,” Varadkar told RTÉ radio.

“Brexit has changed things,” he said, referring to the results of the 2016 referendum when most voters in Northern Ireland and Scotland backed staying in the EU.

“Anyone would agree that the decision to impose Brexit on Northern Ireland and Scotland against their will has left more people in Scotland and Northern Ireland wondering if they were better off in the country. union,” he said.

Varadkar – Ireland’s prime minister in 2019 when he and Johnson reached agreement on the basic principles of what became the protocol – said the UK government’s announcement on Tuesday that it intended to publish a breaching bill these treaty commitments undermined trust in EU capitals and risked further eroding internal relations. UK support

Asked if Johnson misrepresented himself at that summit before winning the December 2019 election, claiming to have secured a “ready-made deal” on Brexit, Varadkar replied: ” I think he was timely. He had an election coming up. He wanted to win it.”

Varadkar – who is due to return to his former job as prime minister at the Dublin tripartite government summit later this year – said Johnson’s anti-EU rhetoric threatened Northern Ireland’s real economic interests and instead seemed designed to secure Conservative votes in England.

The protocol, part of the UK-EU Withdrawal Agreement, requires EU checks on UK goods arriving in Northern Ireland from the rest of the UK. The arrangement keeps Northern Ireland within the EU’s single goods market, allowing its manufacturers to continue to export freely to the 27-nation bloc as well as Britain – and bolsters cross-border trade with the Republic of Ireland, its EU neighbour.

Unionists in Northern Ireland oppose the protocol on the grounds that EU controls make it more difficult to ship goods from Britain and in doing so have driven an economic wedge in the UK. after this month’s election – refuse to relaunch a power-sharing government until Britain unilaterally ends checks.

Varadkar said farmers in Northern Ireland are particularly dependent on continued enforcement of common EU food standards.

“In the future, Britain could strike a trade deal that brings chlorinated chicken from Thailand, or hormone-treated beef from America, or who knows what from Brazil or other parts of the world,” he said. he declared. “Is this something the Ulster Farmers Union actually wants?”

He said the UK’s new threat to pass legislation that would unilaterally change its treaty with the EU could “fail”, as has already happened with its Internal Market Bill. But the recurring refusal to impose full EU checks at Northern Ireland ports, as agreed – and as the Irish have done at Dublin Port since early 2021 – “creates an atmosphere of distrust”.

“If we agree with them, how will we know that they will honor this agreement? And if we make concessions, how will we know that we will get concessions in return? This is generally how negotiation works. It takes a bit of compromise,” he said.

“But it seems like when it comes to this UK government anyway, it’s all taken and then they try to take some more. Unfortunately, this is not a good basis for successful negotiations or for a good relationship.

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