PM Johnson tells Macron UK and EU need to find solution to N. Ireland protocol

During Brexit negotiations, all sides agreed that protecting the Northern Ireland peace deal was an absolute priority

  
Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson visits the HMS Queen Elizabeth aircraft carrier in Portsmouth, Britain, May 21, 2021. Leon Neal/Pool via REUTERS

Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson visits the HMS Queen Elizabeth aircraft carrier in Portsmouth, Britain, May 21, 2021. Leon Neal/Pool via REUTERS

LONDON - British Prime Minister Boris Johnson told French President Emmanuel Macron on Monday that the United Kingdom and the European Union need to find a solution to the so-called Northern Irish Brexit protocol.

After the United Kingdom left the European Union's orbit at the end of last year, checks were introduced on some goods moving from mainland Britain to Northern Ireland, which has a land border with EU member Ireland.

The checks triggered anger and a perception among pro-British unionists in Northern Ireland that the Brexit deal divides them from the rest of the United Kingdom.

Johnson, who had promised there would be unfettered trade between Northern Ireland and the rest of the United Kingdom, unilaterally extended a grace period on certain checks to minimise supply disruption, a move Brussels has said breached the Brexit divorce deal.

"On the Northern Ireland protocol, the Prime Minister stressed that both the UK and the EU have a responsibility to find solutions to address the issues with the Protocol," a spokesman for Johnson said after the call between the leaders.

The Brext dilemma also complicates the 1998 Northern Ireland 1998 peace deal, known as the Belfast or Good Friday Agreement, which ended three decades of violence between mostly Catholic nationalists fighting for a united Ireland and mostly Protestant unionists, or loyalists, who want Northern Ireland to stay part of the United Kingdom.

The deal guaranteed an open Irish land border to help safeguard peace, free trade and travel on the island.

The spokesman said the two leaders agreed to work together to avoid any further escalation over the issue of fishing access. Last month, Britain sent two navy vessels close to the island of Jersey in response to French fishing boats threatening to blockade a port.

(Reporting by Andrew MacAskill Editing by Chris Reese and Angus MacSwan) ((Andrew.MacAskill@thomsonreuters.com; +447818584430; Reuters Messaging: andrew.macaskill@thomsonreuters.com))


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