The UK is set to force another major post-Brexit row with the EU as it prepares to demand significant changes to the Northern Ireland Protocol today.
Defacto Brexit minister Lord David Frost will reportedly call for almost all checks between Great Britain and Northern Ireland to be removed to avoid economic and civil disruption.
The Financial Times reports that Frost will also warn the EU that if they refuse to agree that the UK will trigger Article 16 of the protocol, which would see the government try to suspend or override the agreement.
Boris Johnson met with Irish Prime Minister Micheál Martin yesterday to discuss the plans.
An EU official told the FT: “Johnson said that all GB-made goods should be able to go into Northern Ireland without checks.”
Northern Ireland secretary Brandon Lewis will make a statement about the proposed changes at 12.30pm in the House of Commons, while a white paper by Frost is released simultaneously.
Northern Ireland still follows the EU’s custom union and single market rules, unlike the rest of the UK, creating a so-called border in the Irish Sea.
The UK wants the EU to adopt less stringent checks on goods going from Great Britain to Northern Ireland to minimise economic and political disruption, while Brussels does not want unauthorised goods to enter its single market.
The protocol has been met with increasing fury by some sections of the Northern Ireland unionist community as they say it separates the region from the rest of the UK.
Frost will reportedly call for an “honesty box” approach for exporters in Great Britain, which will see them declare if their goods are intended only for sale in Northern Ireland and therefore can skip customs checks.
Alongside this will be a proposal for goods to be labelled as for use in Northern Ireland only to ensure they do not end up in the EU’s single market and can also avoid border checks as they cross the Irish Sea.
The UK government is also set to call for the European Court of Justice to no longer have any role in implementing the Northern Ireland Protocol.
In a readout of Johnson’s call with Martin yesterday, Downing Street said the UK Prime minister complained that “the way the protocol is operating is causing significant disruption for the people in Northern Ireland”.
Johnson also said “the EU must show pragmatism and solutions needed to be found to address the serious challenges that have arisen with the protocol”.
Marks & Spencer chairman Archie Norman today said the current implementation of the protocol was bound to lead to higher prices in Northern Ireland.
He said the EU customs arrangement are “unsuited and never designed for a modern fresh food supply”.