‘Action is illegal!’ Sinn Fein chief rages at Boris Johnson as she savages Brexit Bill

Boris Johnson criticised by O'Neill over Northern Ireland Protocol

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Michelle O’Neil, First Minister (Designate) of Northern Ireland, accused the Prime Minister of “furthering political instability” after he oversaw the publishing of the Northern Ireland Protocol Bill on Monday. She claimed he was “legislating to breach an international agreement” by undermining parts of their original agreement with the European Union. 

Ms O’Neill said: “The majority of the people want the protocol to work. It’s the best defence we have against the hardest possible Brexit. 

“The majority of people in the business community are saying the protocol is working and affording them opportunities. We want to see more of that. 

“But all that Boris Johnson is doing today is to further political instability and to create even more economic uncertainty for the days and weeks ahead. 

“Boris Johnson’s action is illegal! He is in clear breach of international law, regardless of the detail. 

“He himself signed up to an agreement, he signed on the dotted line, and he is now legislating to breach that international agreement.”

Britain published legislation on Monday which would scrap checks and challenge the role played by the European Union’s court in the region. It says its plan is legal, but Brussels believes any unilateral change may breach international law.

European Commission vice-president Maros Sefcovic warned that the EU would consider launching new infringement procedures against Britain. It could also fine Britain and ultimately review the terms of their free trade agreement.

Asked why the government was risking a trade war in the midst of a cost-of-living crisis, British foreign secretary Liz Truss told Times Radio: “Our solution doesn’t make the EU any worse off. We continue to protect the single market.”

“So there is absolutely no reason why the EU should react in a negative way to what we are doing. I’ve been very clear that my preference is for a negotiated solution but in the absence of that we simply cannot allow the situation to drift.”

The Bill will enable ministers to establish a “green lane” so trusted traders are allowed to move goods from Great Britain to Northern Ireland without checks, as long as the products remain within the UK.

Products being placed on the market in Northern Ireland would be allowed to follow either UK or EU regulations, rather than having to comply with Brussels’ rules.

The legislation would also remove the European Court of Justice as a final arbiter in trade disputes over the protocol, with the function instead handed to independent adjudicators.

The Government insisted the Bill was compatible with international law under the “doctrine of necessity” which allows obligations in treaties to be set aside under “certain, very exceptional, limited conditions”.

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Business industry experts have protested that the new measures could cause a “trade war”. 

Richard Burge, chief executive of the London Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said the Government’s action risked “significant harm” to businesses across the UK.

“Getting Brexit done was at least meant to deliver certainty to businesses after years of waiting for clarity on the future of the UK’s trade relations with the European Union,” he said.

“The introduction of this Bill means we are now teetering on the brink of a trade war with the EU and that will mean further economic pain and falls in investment.”

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