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Government Claims They Won't Retaliate If EU Punishes UK For Overhauling Northern Ireland Protocol

The UK and the EU could be locked in a trade war if the Northern Ireland protocol is ripped up (Alamy)

2 min read

Downing Street has said the government will not retaliate if the EU seeks to punish the UK for overhauling the Northern Ireland protocol.

It is believed that Brussels could seek to impose tariffs on British exports if the UK makes significant changes to the existing post-Brexit agreement, leading to a damaging trade war in the middle of the cost of living crisis if the UK chose to retaliate. 

But the Prime Minister’s official spokesperson suggested the UK would not respond in this way, and was instead focused on “peace and democracy” in Northern Ireland.

Boris Johnson is in Belfast today for a series of meetings with political leaders in an attempt to get the Stormont power sharing executive back in place.

But the largest unionist party, the DUP, has refused to allow the assembly to form a government alongside the leading party, Sinn Fein, until changes are made to the protocol, which imposes checks on some goods moving from Great Britain to Northern Ireland.

Foreign Secretary Liz Truss is expected to formally announce a plan to legislate on the protocol in Parliament on Tuesday, which her Irish counterpart Simon Coveney said could endanger the wider Brexit trade deal, while the the EU has made clear unilateral action from the UK would represent a clear breach of international law.

Johnson’s spokesperson said the UK was “not going to be getting drawn into retaliatory measures”, which could make European goods more expensive to British consumers, if Brussels placed checks or tariffs on UK exports. 

Last week the Brexit opportunities minister Jacob Rees-Mogg said the government is "unlikely" to impose new duties on EU goods, telling ITV’s Peston programme that “tit-for-tat retaliation of that kind is the economics of the school ground and it would damage British consumers at a time of rising prices”.

Johnson's spokesperson appeared to agree with Rees-Mogg's comments that the UK would not retaliate with EU duties.

"It's entirely not our focus," they added. “What we are doing is about peace and democracy in the region. We believe there is a sensible landing zone using the structures already drafted, that works for all sides.”

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