Holyrood slams Northern Ireland protocol changes as ‘unthinkable’

Neil Gray, Holyrood Minister for Europe

A Scottish government minister has said any decision by Westminster to tear up a deal with the EU governing post-Brexit trade deals with Northern Ireland would be “unthinkable”.

Neil Gray, Holyrood’s Minister for Europe, has written to the Foreign Secretary asking for urgent discussions over reports that UK ministers are preparing legislation giving them sweeping powers to unilaterally suspend elements of the Northern Ireland Protocol North in the withdrawal agreement.

In the letter to Liz Truss, Mr Gray called for discussions on the proposals and said the Scottish Government would be “strongly opposed”.

“There would be no justification for such unilateral action at the best of times, but it is unthinkable at this time for at least two reasons,” the Airdrie and Shotts MSP said.

“Firstly, taking such unilateral action would clearly run the risk of further escalation and possible EU countermeasures, which could be very damaging to the Scottish economy as well as European relations. at large.

“It can’t be right at a time of escalating cost of living crisis. The damage from Brexit is bad enough without adding to the misery.

“Second, given Russia’s barbaric and unprovoked war in Ukraine, now is the time for European nations to work together in our common interests.”

Boris Johnson's visit to India
Prime Minister Boris Johnson waves as he boards his plane for the UK at Delhi airport at the end of his two-day trip to India (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

The letter comes after Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Friday the UK was ready to take action to “fix” the deal with the EU governing post-Brexit trade deals with Northern Ireland.

“The protocol really does not command the confidence of a very large part of the population of Northern Ireland. We have to solve this problem, we have to solve this problem,” Johnson told a news conference in New Delhi.

“We think we can do it in a few very simple and reasonable steps.

“We spoke several times to our friends and partners in the EU. We will continue to talk to them.

“But, as I’ve said many times now, we don’t rule out taking action now if it’s needed.”

The British government’s decision, which is expected to inspire the wrath of European leaders, comes less than two weeks before the Northern Ireland Assembly elections on May 5.

Unionist parties in the region have consistently declared their opposition to the protocol, which they say cuts off Northern Ireland from the rest of the UK.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has been contacted for comment.