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Analysis: How the EU views Johnson's plan to alter the Brexit treaty

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By Shona Murray
British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss arrives for a meeting with European Commissioner Maros Sefcovic at EU headquarters in Brussels, on 24 January 2022.
British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss arrives for a meeting with European Commissioner Maros Sefcovic at EU headquarters in Brussels, on 24 January 2022.   -   Copyright  John Thys, Pool Photo via AP

There is considerable anger and frustration in the EU over the UK’s plan to unilaterally alter the Brexit agreement it made with Brussels after several years of talks and agreement.

The move by Britain could escalate already tense relations between the two sides and even result in the EU suspending the EU-UK trade agreement.

The UK legislation would alter the Northern Ireland Protocol which is the legislation that allows Northern Ireland to stay in the European Union’s single market for goods while remaining a fully-fledged part of the UK.

The Protocol was designed to maintain the provisions of the Good Friday Agreement by ensuring there was no customs border on the island of Ireland.

Instead, customs and regulatory checks take place on goods moving from mainland Britain to Northern Ireland to protect the single market.

The EU is calling on the UK to return to talks and negotiate better terms within the Protocol after it listed several derogations in order to allow trade to occur more seamlessly between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK.

Lead Brexit negotiator for EU, Maroš Šefčovič has criticised the UK for refusing to negotiate to resolve the practical issues arising from the Protocol.

The EU has said UK Foreign Minister Liz Truss has refused to do so.

A European Commission source told Euronews the move by the UK is “outrageous” and a "clear breach of international law.''

There is also a strong consensus among EU diplomats that the motivation behind the decision could be Truss aiming for the top job of Prime Minister as Johnson faces criticism over several parties held during COVID-19 lockdown.

Truss has been accused of stirring up a war with the EU in order to please Eurosceptics in the European Research Group (ERG) and within the British Conservative Party.

Meanwhile, a phone call made by Truss to her Irish counterpart Simon Coveney to outline the UK’s intentions today lasted just 12 minutes and went "badly'', according to a source close to the Irish government.

Coveney said the decision marks a “particular low point in the UK’s approach to Brexit, especially as Secretary Truss has not engaged with negotiations with the EU in any meaningful way since Feb."

He also reiterated that the protocol is the "negotiated solution, ratified by Westminster, to the hard Brexit pursued by the UK government."