Today’s parliamentary statement from UK foreign secretary, Liz Truss, announced selective unilateral action regarding the implementation of the Northern Ireland Protocol.
However, it had been well flagged up beforehand.
Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, indicated as much during his trip to Northern Ireland yesterday (Monday, May 17).
However, the statement from the foreign secretary was made against the backdrop of all the political parties at Stormont confirming that changes to the protocol can, and must, be made.
Speaking in the House of Commons, Liz Truss said:
“Our shared objective has to be to find a solution that commands the broadest possible cross-community support for years to come and protect the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement in all its dimensions.
“That is why I am announcing our intention to introduce legislation in the coming weeks to make changes in the protocol.
“Our preference remains the negotiated solution with the EU. And in parallel with the legislation being introduced, we remain open to further talks if we can achieve the same outcome through negotiated settlement.”
Northern Ireland Protocol
The foreign secretary added that she wants to see talks recommence with the European Union (EU) on the protocol as a matter of priority.
She is also keen to canvass the views of business leaders in Northern Ireland on how best to move these matters forward.
Responding to the Truss statement, Ireland’s foreign minister, Simon Coveney, admitted that changes to the protocol are required.
However, these must be secured on the basis of mutual agreement between the UK and the EU. He, too, wants to see serious negotiations between both parties kick starting in the very near future.
Alliance Party MLA Sorcha Eastwood holds a similar perspective.
Speaking on RTE ‘s News at One programme, she said that changes to the protocol can be arrived at on the back of negotiations that take place in an atmosphere of mutual trust.
Unilateral action on the part of the UK government is a non-starter, she said.
From a farming and food point of view, it is already recognised that the securing of a veterinary agreement between the UK and the EU would significantly reduce the amount of checking required, where the movement of animals and livestock products between Britain and Northern Ireland is concerned.
The greater use of IT systems would also allow for the much easier identification of produce destined for Northern Ireland only.