Boris: EU must drop NI restrictions or I’ll suspend Brexit terms

Boris Johnson has made a bombshell warning to the European Union ahead of a major showdown between Michael Gove and European Commission figurehead Maroš Šefčovič.

The two are due to discuss the situation on the island of Ireland, where goods checks under the Northern Ireland Protocol are said to be becoming onerous.

Earlier today Michael Gove called on the EU to extend a post-Brexit “grace period” until 2023, preventing checks on food being shifted between territories by supermarkets and wholesalers.

But he has warned that the government will use “all instruments at its disposal” to seek a solution to ongoing friction between parts of the United Kingdom.

Speaking in the House of Commons, Johnson spelled out explicitly what “all instruments” could entail: “We will do everything we need to do, whether legislatively or indeed by triggering Article 16 of the protocol, to ensure that there is no barrier down the Irish Sea”

The situation has changed dramatically in recent days after the EU invoked and quickly revoked Article 16 – a powerful tool that allows the EU and the UK to unilaterally suspend the functioning of provisions of the Withdrawal Agreement relating to Northern Ireland.

The EU had done so to ban the export of vaccines to Northern Ireland amid a panicked crackdown. Vaccine supply woes have preoccupied the Commission in recent weeks, with some seeing the knee-jerk response as a way to distract from their own responsibility for the delays.

But the snap decision has led to the DUP – the major unionist voice in Northern Ireland – declaring war on the Protocol entirely, as they call on the Prime Minister to invoke Article 16 himself, do away with an emerging trade border in the Irish Sea, and secure Northern Ireland’s place in the UK’s internal market.

Johnson met with Foster earlier today and vowed to solve the issues. Summarising the meeting, a DUP figure said: “The prime minister indicated that he was deeply shocked ‘by the cavalier approach adopted by the EU’ last Friday and without consultation. He recognised that such actions by the EU undermines the authority of the protocol.”