UK set to break international law – Sinn Fein chief

Mary Lou McDonald said London’s plans to change the Northern Ireland Protocol will have very serious implications

The UK will violate international law if it unilaterally changes the post-Brexit Northern Ireland Protocol, said Mary Lou McDonald, leader of the Irish nationalist party Sinn Fein.

“What the Tory government is proposing to do, in breach of international law, is to create huge damage to the northern economy, to the Irish economy,” McDonald told Sky News on Sunday.

She further stated that the move would undermine the Good Friday Agreement, a 1998 peace deal that ended the violence in Northern Ireland.

Back in May, Sinn Fein secured the most seats in Northern Ireland’s assembly elections. The result was its best ever performance in Northern Ireland’s 100-year history and marked the first time an Irish nationalist party had become the largest in the territory’s assembly.

Speaking about the plans to change the protocol, Irish Prime Minister Micheal Martin struck a similar tone on Wednesday, saying that it would mark “a historic low point.”

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Sinn Fein Vice President Michelle O'Neill, center, celebrates with party colleagues after being elected in Mid Ulster at Magherafelt, Northern Ireland, May 6, 2022 © AP / Peter Morrison
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Britain and the EU signed the Northern Ireland Protocol in 2019 during wider post-Brexit trade talks.

The agreement made it possible to avoid a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, an EU member state. It also provided for checks and inspections of the goods moving between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK.

The UK now believes that the protocol has damaged trade within its domestic market. Northern Ireland Minister of State Conor Burns said this week that the checks had become “ridiculously excessive.” Legislation to disable parts of the protocol will be presented to Parliament on Monday.

State Secretary for Northern Ireland Brandon Lewis defended the government’s plans in an interview on Sky News on Sunday. “What we’re going to do is lawful and is correct,” he said. “The government lawyers were very clear. We are working within the law.”

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