Talks over the Northern Ireland Protocol continue to stall, with threats of total breakdown and trade wars being issued to-and-fro. After last week threatening on a number of occasions to trigger Article 16, the UK Government now claims it is drafting legislation to rip up the Protocol.
But former MEP Ben Habib suggested Whitehall is simply playing to its audience and will fold before making any decisive action.
He told Express.co.uk: “So much Government time and energy has been spent on not doing anything about this.
“As with most policy initiatives, there has been a lot of hot air but no action.”
When announcing the coming of new legislation, Liz Truss, who is currently leading negotiations with the EU for the UK, said she hoped this would help resolve issues relating to the deal.
One particular sticking point of the Protocol is its requirement that goods moving between Great Britain and Northern Ireland (that is, from one part of the UK to another) must undergo checks.
Mr Habib stressed that because of such rulings, “Northern Ireland has been largely left behind in the EU”.
The legislation being touted to rip up such measures is, however, only being threatened as a last resort.
The Foreign Secretary insisted that the Government’s “preference” remained the establishment of a “negotiated solution” with Brussels.
House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi last month said: “It is deeply concerning that the UK is now seeking to unilaterally discard the Protocol.
“Negotiated agreements like the Protocol preserve the important progress and stability forged by the Good Friday Accords…
“If the UK chooses to undermine the Good Friday Accords, the Congress cannot and will not support a bilateral free trade agreement with the UK.”
The Protocol Bill is set to be unveiled on Monday, June 13.
Parliament’s website sets this out as a “Bill to make provision about the effect in domestic law of the Protocol on Ireland/Northern Ireland in the EU withdrawal agreement, about other domestic law in subject areas dealt with by the Protocol and for connected purposes”.
A Foreign Office spokesperson said towards the end of last month: “The Protocol needs to be fixed to protect the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement.
“The legislation we announced… would do just that, but our door remains open to the EU if they are prepared to move further to find real solutions.”