The Government could scupper trade talks with the European Union by evading Irish Sea checks on goods passing from Great Britain to Northern Ireland. The European Commission warned the Prime Minister “respecting our legal obligations is very important for establishing trust” during future negotiations. A spokeswoman said: “The Withdrawal Agreement has been signed and ratified by both sides. It must effectively be implemented.
“In this context, as in all others, we’d expect our partners to respect their international obligations under national and international law.
“Obviously respect to the future and how this plays in the negotiation respecting our legal obligations is very important for establishing trust between two partners in a negotiation.”
Under Mr Johnson’s EU Withdrawal Agreement, Northern Ireland leaves the bloc’s customs union but must continue to apply its procedures for goods arriving in the province.
But the Prime Minister’s team are drawing up plans to “get around” the protocol in the Brexit deal so they can play hardball with Brussels over trade, according to a Sunday newspaper report.
David Frost’s Taskforce Europe is working on secret plans to ensure there do not need to be checks on goods passing from British to Northern Ireland.
A senior source told the Sunday Times: “There is deadly serious internal work going on about not obeying the Northern Ireland protocol.”
“Taskforce Europe are looking into that. That’s why they had Suella Braverman put in there.”
Insiders claim Ms Braverman was installed as the new Attorney-General during the reshuffle because her predecessor, Geoffrey Cox, was not willing to support an action that will be seen in Brussels as a breach of the divorce deal.
Responding to the reports, a UK Government spokesman said they would continue to “comply with its obligations”.
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A source said: “The EU seem distracted by other issues. The new plan is for them to approve their mandate on Feburary 25, but it’s anyone’s guess whether they will.”
A Downing Street source added: “As a wise man once said, please don’t waste this time.”
EU ministers are expected to rubber-stamp Michel Barnier’s negotiating guidelines tomorrow at a meeting in Brussels.