Northern Ireland Protocol: Boris Johnson's decision to pick a fight with EU is a cynical ploy that is contrary to the national interest – Scotsman comment

The UK quit the European Union two years ago, but the actions of Boris Johnson’s government over the Northern Ireland Protocol suggest they are still fighting the Leave campaign.

It was always a danger that politicians elected on a Brexit ticket would, particularly in troubled times, look to pick a fight with their old enemies, “Brussels bureaucrats”, to rekindle their supporters’ passions.

But there are multiple reasons why this would be strongly against the national interest.

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The protocol does appear to be problematic, causing too much ‘friction’ to trade between mainland Britain and Northern Ireland. But the EU has made a number of suggestions about how to improve the situation. These may not be good enough, but they show it is taking the issue seriously and is willing to talk.

However, on the UK side, Foreign Secretary Liz Truss has ordered officials to draw up draft legislation that would remove the need for checks on all goods being sent across the Irish Sea in a flagrant breach of the protocol.

Given the need to avoid checks on the Irish border, this would pose a threat to the integrity of the EU’s single market, something that Brussels has to take seriously. This is why there are genuine fears the UK’s actions could spark a trade war with the EU.

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If that happens, it would add to our current, considerable economic problems and also create division among Europe’s democracies at a time when they must stand together against Vladimir Putin.

Boris Johnson needs to drop the anti-EU rhetoric and find a compromise with the EU over the Northern Ireland Protocol (Picture: Matt Dunham/WPA pool/Getty Images)

And the mere threat to unilaterally rip up the protocol shows the UK Government has little regard for the rule of law.

Johnson’s government signed up to this international agreement, yet is now threatening to go back on its word. Ministers are basically sending out a message that they cannot be trusted, just as their colleagues are travelling the world in an attempt to get other countries to sign up to trade deals.

In those countries, trade officials will be taking note of such attitudes, while their Foreign Office assessments of Johnson's character are likely to make uncomfortable reading.

The UK needs a government that recognises the EU as a friend, not a foe. If Johnson continues to cynically refight old wars to shore up his support, it’s yet another reason why he should go.

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