The Brexit Opportunities Minister told a committee of MPs that if the European Union is not prepared to reform the trade mechanism, the UK Government is well within its rights to take unilateral action. He said: “We signed it [the protocol] on the basis that it would be reformed. There comes a point where we say, ‘You haven’t reformed it and therefore we are reforming it ourselves’.”
Now Baroness Kate Hoey, who was appointed as Boris Johnson’s trade envoy to Ghana in September 2021, has thrown her support behind the comments from Mr Rees-Mogg.
She made reference to the crunch Northern Ireland elections in a couple of weeks, and sent a stern warning to Brussels.
Baroness Hoey tweeted: “Unless the Protocol is ditched there will be no Northern Ireland government after May 5th.
“Some realism being shown by Jacob Rees-Mogg and a recognition that EU has overplayed its hand.”
The UK and EU have been engaged in tense talks over the implementation of the Northern Ireland Protocol during recent months.
Both sides have argued over how post-Brexit trading arrangements in Northern Ireland should be implemented, which has led to increasingly strained relations between London and Brussels.
The deal agreed with the EU by Boris Johnson has created a trade border in the Irish Sea, meaning Northern Ireland still has to follow the bloc’s rules for goods trade, in order to avoid a return to a hard border with the Republic of Ireland.
Several rounds of talks with the EU to change this have failed to make any significant progress, further damaging UK-EU tensions and leading to an increasing number of Brexiteer ministers to demand the UK Government completely tear it up.
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The sources said “enabling” powers to override the mechanism could be used whether or not the UK Government decides to trigger Article 16, which allows either side to suspend elements of the protocol if it was causing “serious economic, societal or environmental difficulties”.
A Government insider said: “We are exploring a range of options because this gridlock can’t go on forever, but no decisions have been made.”
Jonathan Jones QC, the UK Government’s former top lawyer who quit in 2020 in protest at the government’s attempt to unilaterally disapply the protocol, warned UK and EU relations could be damaged through any move to act unilaterally.
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