Downing Street has said new legislation to be tabled this week is intended to provide ‘limited clarifications’ to the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement to protect the Northern Ireland peace agreement.
The prime minister’s official spokesman said the government was continuing to work with the EU to resolve the ‘outstanding issues’ relating to the Northern Ireland protocol intended to ensure there is no return of a ‘hard border’ with the Republic.
‘However, as a responsible government, we cannot allow the peace process or the UK’s internal market to inadvertently be compromised by unintended consequences of the protocol,’ the spokesman said.
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‘So we are taking limited and reasonable steps to clarify specific elements of the Northern Ireland protocol in domestic law to remove any ambiguity and to ensure the government is always able to deliver on its commitments to the people of Northern Ireland.’
A UK official said the legislation was necessary to protect the Good Friday Agreement if the two sides fail to reach agreement on a post-Brexit free trade deal.
‘If we don’t take these steps we face the prospect of legal confusion at the end of the year and potentially extremely damaging defaults, including tariffs on goods moving from GB to Northern Ireland,’ the official said.
Downing Street also said Boris Johnson has told European leaders that progress must be made in the eighth round of Brexit negotiations which begin on Tuesday.
‘(Johnson) has spoken with his counterparts on a number of occasions so far, most recently on this issue with Charles Michel, Ursula von der Leyen and Angela Merkel.
‘He is clear that we need to make progress this week.
‘We can’t be in the same position as we are now by the end of the upcoming negotiating round if we are going to reach an agreement in the time available.
‘As the PM is setting out today, there needs to be an agreement by the time of the European Council on October 15 if it is going to be in force by the end of the year.
‘Reaching a deal at the eleventh hour is not an option.’