Boris Johnson has stepped up threats to tear up the Northern Ireland Protocol ahead of an expected Bill as early as next week, warning Dublin the crisis is “now very serious”.
The prime minister told Micheál Martin, the Irish Taoiseach, that “repeated efforts” to reach agreement with the EU had failed – accusing Brussels of failing to take “the steps necessary”.
Legislation to override the Brexit deal – potentially triggering a hugely damaging trade war with the EU – could be published next week, allies of Liz Truss are suggesting.
But one senior Tory accused Mr Johnson of “sabre rattling again”, warning the UK’s reputation will suffer if it moves “unilaterally” to shred an international agreement it has signed.
“Inflation up, recession on horizon and we think now a good time for a trade war with our nearest neighbours?” Simon Hoare, the chair of the Commons Northern Ireland Affairs committee asked.
Draft legislation has been drawn up to abolish the checks on goods exported from Britain for use in Northern Ireland that Mr Johnson signed up to in the 2019 agreement.
It is thought it could also allow businesses in Northern Ireland to disregard EU rules and regulations and remove the power of the European Court of Justice to rule on issues.
The Bill – if passed into law by parliament – would override the Protocol, which kept the north within the EU single market and customs union, to avoid a hard border in Ireland.
Downing Street said the two leaders agreed on the vital importance of restoring the devolved institutions in Northern Ireland as soon as possible, amid a Democratic Unionist Party boycott.
But a spokesperson said: “The prime minister made clear that the situation in respect of the Northern Ireland Protocol was now very serious.”
“The balance of the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement was being undermined and the recent elections had further demonstrated that the Protocol was not sustainable in its current form.”
No 10 said “the European Commission had not taken the steps necessary to help address the economic and political disruption on the ground”
“The prime minister reiterated that the UK government would take action to protect peace and political stability in Northern Ireland if solutions could not be found,” the spokesperson added.