Northern Ireland Protocol: Liz Truss is risking a trade war with EU that would worsen the cost of living crisis – Scotsman comment

“Respect for the rule of law runs deep in our Tory veins. I find it extraordinary that a Tory government needs to be reminded of that,” said Conservative MP Simon Hoare after Liz Truss announced plans to unilaterally rewrite an international agreement, the Northern Ireland Protocol, despite the EU’s protests.

The Foreign Secretary assured Hoare, who chairs the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee, that the forthcoming legislation would be within international law.

However a question that needs to be asked is whether this view comes from the same authority which deemed suspending parliament in order to facilitate Brexit was legal and which reassured Boris Johnson he had done nothing wrong when he broke his own lockdown laws: a populist who makes up their own rules.

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Perhaps the best that can be hoped for is that this is a negotiating strategy: threaten a diplomatic 'nuclear option’ to induce Brussels to make concessions.

However, this kind of brinkmanship is highly risky, as the escalating rancour could, almost accidentally, lead to a trade war with our biggest economic partner during a dire cost-of-living crisis.

As we have said before repeatedly, the EU should be among the UK’s closest friends and allies, but the people who delivered the act of national self-harm that was Brexit appear determined to double down on the diplomatic damage this caused.

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Liz Truss announces plans to suspend parts of the Northern Ireland Protocol

And that’s the best-case scenario. The worst is that the UK is going to deliberately rip up an international agreement, find itself in a court battle with the EU, and then a trade war with both sides imposing tariffs on each other’s goods.

Foreign Secretary Liz Truss, seen at a meeting of Nato ministers in Berlin, on Sunday (Picture: Bernd von Jutrczenka/pool/AFP via Getty Images)

At a time when people are choosing between heating and eating, can it really be true that our political leaders are forcing a dispute that could cause dramatic increases in prices?

There are problems with the Northern Ireland Protocol, but they are as much Johnson’s fault as the EU’s and should be sorted out through friendly negotiation and with strict adherence to international law.

As Angela McGowan, director of CBI Northern Ireland, said: “Politicians everywhere should be focussed on helping the most vulnerable in society amid the worst cost-of-living crisis in decades… Now more than ever, flexibility and compromise are needed from both sides to reach lasting trade solutions, securing peace and prosperity.”


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