Foreign Secretary Liz Truss has reiterated that she is unwilling to accept a deal which means goods from Britain being checked as they enter Northern Ireland.
Ms Truss, now the UK’s lead negotiator with the EU in post-Brexit talks, was writing in the Sunday Telegraph.
The EU said it was “not too impressed” with the foreign secretary’s threat.
Next week Ms Truss is due to hold two days of talks with her European Union counterpart Maros Sefcovic.
“I will not sign up to anything which sees the people of Northern Ireland unable to benefit from the same decisions on taxation and spending as the rest of the UK, or which still sees goods moving within our own country being subject to checks,” she said.
The protocol is the part of the Brexit deal that prevents a hard Irish border by keeping Northern Ireland inside the EU’s single market for goods. This creates a new Irish Sea trade border between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK, with some goods needing to be checked as they enter Northern Ireland.
In July, the UK proposed an arrangement in which goods from Great Britain which are due to stay in Northern Ireland would not be checked and would have minimal paperwork, with goods which are due to move onwards to the Republic of Ireland being checked at Northern Ireland’s ports.
The EU published its own proposals in October which it said would significantly reduce, but not eliminate, checks on goods, saying that the easiest way to reduce checks would be for the UK to sign up to a Swiss-style agrifood agreement which would involve all of the UK following the relevant EU rules, something the government says it could not accept.
Ms Truss says that when she meets Mr Sefcovic, the EU’s lead post-Brexit negotiator, she will be “putting forward our constructive proposals to resolve the situation”.
She has also repeated the UK’s willingness to use the Article 16 mechanism of the protocol which sets out the process for taking unilateral “safeguard” measures if either the EU or UK concludes that the deal is leading to serious practical problems or causing diversion of trade, which would amount to suspending parts of the deal.
Ms Truss said: “I want a negotiated solution but if we have to use legitimate provisions including Article 16, I am willing to do that.
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