Brussels threatened legal action after London introduced Northern Ireland protocol bill – Copyright AFP ISAAC LAWRENCE
New British Prime Minister Liz Truss on Wednesday said she hopes talks with the EU will help resolve the post-Brexit trade dispute in Northern Ireland.
“I prefer a negotiated solution,” she told MPs in her first speech as prime minister since taking office on Tuesday.
“But he has to provide everything that we set out in the Northern Ireland Protocol Bill,” she added.
The bill, initiated by Truss in her previous position as foreign secretary, proposes to abandon part of the deal that London signed with Brussels as part of the UK’s exit from the bloc.
It is currently moving through parliament despite warnings from the EU that it violates international law and could lead to retaliatory trade sanctions.
The UK government opposes internal border checks for goods traveling from the UK mainland – England, Scotland and Wales – to Northern Ireland.
The EU has stipulated that checks are necessary to prevent goods from entering the European single market via neighboring member state, Ireland.
The removal of the hard border infrastructure between Northern Ireland and the Republic was a condition of the 1998 peace deal that ended 30 years of violence against British rule.
But pro-British trade union parties say the checks separate Northern Ireland from the rest of the UK, raising the risk of Irish reunification.
Truss said her “number one priority” was “protecting the primacy” of the peace deal amid worries from US President Joe Biden’s administration in Washington.
She promised to solve the problem that caused the trade union parties to pull out of Belfast’s devolved government.
“I want to work with all parties in Northern Ireland to get the executive and assembly back up and running,” Truss added.
“But to do that, we need to fix the Northern Ireland protocol issues that have upset the balance between communities in Northern Ireland.
“I am determined to keep doing this and I am determined to work with all parties to find this solution.”