Northern Ireland protocol a reminder of Brexit’s endless gamesmanship

Foreign secretary Liz Truss has announced plans to bring forward legislation within weeks, overwriting parts of the post-Brexit deal on Northern Ireland.

This will include separate “green” and “red” lanes for goods travelling between Great Britain and Northern Ireland, with those destined to stay within the UK freed from EU-level checks.

There will also be no crossover between the channels, at least in theory, with goods filtering through one or the other depending on their destination.

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Ms Truss told MPs the Bill would remove customs paperwork as well as regulatory barriers to goods made to UK standards being sold in Northern Ireland.

A man dressed as a customs officer and another dressed as Boris Johnson with protesters from Border Communities Against Brexit outside Hillsborough Castle

These are all grand ideas – none of which were put forward in a Bill to MPs today – which would be fine, if that isn’t what the Government had been briefing would happen.

Instead a Bill was promised within weeks, at least by summer, with the UK Government appearing to have the same approach to deadlines as your average student.

Yesterday was a policy announcement without policy, a promise of action without any in a bid to pressure the EU into caving or finding a compromise.

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

It is much like when the Prime Minister told the public to prepare for a no-deal Brexit, even spending public money to do so. This is gamesmanship.

Not that this is exclusive to Britain, with the EU promising retaliation, but not saying exactly what that entails.

Both sides want to pressure the other and, while the UK Government could really make the changes it’s promising, it really does not want to do it.

A deal is far better for both sides, and a trade war or drawn-out legal battle during the cost-of-living crisis is not exactly a vote winner.

In the meantime, the people of Northern Ireland remain pawns without representation due to the DUP, having already been an afterthought to the Leave campaign.

Outlandish threats have worked before and, despite genuine anger from his own MPs about how this might make Britain look, Mr Johnson knows how to get something from Brussels.

This is his deal and his mess to fix, and we can only hope the threats of a trade war ring as hollow as the promise to “Get Brexit Done”.

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