A leading Brexit pressure group has warned the Prime Minister must be ready to “repudiate” aspects of his EU Withdrawal Agreement in order to meet that commitment. Brexit Watch said not even a no-deal exit from the transition period will stop Northern Ireland from being carved away from the rest of the UK. Instead Mr Johnson should be prepared to follow Donald Trump’s lead by ripping up swathes of his international agreement with Brussels to secure better terms for the Union.
Brexit Watch chairman Ben Habib said: “Boris has been economical with the truth over the Northern Ireland protocol and its consequences – there will be declarations, there is no getting away from it.
“Even a no-deal exit from the transition period doesn’t get Northern Ireland back is to, in breach of the treaty, repudiate it.”
Under the Prime Minister’s divorce deal, the province remains legally in the UK’s customs union.
To prevent a “hard border”, Northern Ireland will apply the EU’s customs code and collect trade tariffs set by Brussels on products arriving from Great Britain and destined for consumption in the Republic of Ireland.
Mr Habib argues this arrangement creates a clear border in the Irish Sea and is in breach of the Conservatives manifesto pledge to secure a proper Brexit for the entire country.
He added: “I think we have to be Trumpian about this. He tore up NAFTA when he really didn’t think it was working, and he forced Canada and Mexico back to the table.
“I think we’ve just got to do it, and people will say the United Kingdom’s reputation may be damaged, but I think the damage to the country if we don’t do it is much greater than any reputational damage which we might fear.”
Mr Trump deployed a similar tactic with the North America Free Trade Agreement that has tied the US, Canada and Mexico together for more than 20 years.
Soon after taking office, the US President slapped aggress trade tariffs on both Mexican and Canadian goods in order to bring them back to the negotiating table to secure better terms for American workers.
An updated pact was signed by the three countries in January and is considered a major achievement for Mr Trump as he heads into the 2020 presidential election.
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Publicly Mr Johnson’s Government remains supportive of the Northern Ireland protocol it agreed last October with Brussels.
Despite fears in the Belgian capital, the Prime Minister’s team have vowed to implement all the necessary customs checks and procedures during the transition period.
But the UK did spark fury after rejecting a European Commission request to open a permanent office in Belfast.
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A UK Government spokesman said: “We received an initial request from the EU and responded to decline the proposal in February. We have since received a follow up letter to which we will respond in due course.”
A Commission spokesman said: “We can confirm that we have sent letters to the UK regarding a proposal to open a technical office in Belfast with specific technical capabilities to ensure the implementation of the Protocol on Ireland/Northern Ireland (as set out in Article 12 of the Withdrawal Agreement).
“This issue was raised in the Joint Committee on Monday. We remain in contact with the UK on this point.”
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