The British foreign secretary will on Tuesday declare her intention to bring forward legislation which rips up parts of the UK’s post-Brexit trade deal on Northern Ireland.
It is understood that Liz Truss will make the announcement in an attempt to restore powersharing in the region.
The row over the Northern Ireland Protocol has created an impasse in efforts to form a new Executive in Stormont, with the Democratic Unionist Party refusing to join an administration unless its concerns over the arrangements are addressed.
A majority of MLAs in Stormont’s newly elected Assembly represent parties that support retaining the protocol, with many arguing that the arrangement offers the region protection from some of the negative economic consequences of Brexit.
They also point to the unfettered access Northern Ireland traders have to sell into the EU single market as a key benefit of the protocol.
The move to rewrite parts of the deal could risk a trade war with the European Union.
Good phone call with @eucopresident Charles Michel today.
We both agreed the only way forward on the Protocol is through substantive talks between the EU and UK.
Any unilateral action is damaging and cannot help.
— Micheál Martin (@MichealMartinTD) May 16, 2022
On Monday evening, Ms Truss held calls with the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Simon Coveney, and European Commission vice-president, Maros Sefcovic.
In both, Ms Truss said she underlined the importance of upholding the Good Friday Agreement and re-establishing the Northern Ireland Executive.
Spoke to @MarosSefcovic on NI Protocol. I was clear that the UK government’s priority is upholding the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement, and getting the NI Executive back up and running. We need to ensure equal treatment for people of NI to bring parity with the rest of the UK. pic.twitter.com/VbQWhBqgqn
— Liz Truss (@trussliz) May 16, 2022
Mr Sefcovic later said engaging with “flexibilities” offered by the EU would be preferable to taking unilateral action on the protocol.
He tweeted: “With political will, practical issues arising from the implementation of the protocol in Northern Ireland can be resolved.
“Engaging with us on the flexibilities we offer would be a better course of action than unilateral one. We’re ready to play our part, as from the outset.”
🇪🇺🇬🇧 With political will, practical issues arising from the implementation of the Protocol in Northern Ireland can be resolved. Engaging with us on the flexibilities we offer would be a better course of action than unilateral one. We're ready to play our part, as from the outset. pic.twitter.com/Bthmh3KIZ2
— Maroš Šefčovič🇪🇺 (@MarosSefcovic) May 16, 2022
It comes after the British prime minister travelled to Belfast to meet leaders of the Stormont parties in an attempt to secure progress.
He also used Monday’s trip to issue a warning to Brussels that the UK is prepared to rewrite unilaterally the terms of the Brexit deal he signed.
Mr Johnson described that plan as an “insurance” policy if a fresh deal could not be reached with the EU.
The threat of unilateral action has already gone down badly in European capitals, with EU leaders urging the UK Government to fully participate in talks.
Taoiseach Micheál Martin on Monday said that the only way to resolve the row was “substantive talks” between the UK and the EU.