March 4. 2024. 6:20

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Ex-British PM Boris Johnson wades into divisive Northern Ireland protocol debate

Former British prime minister Boris Johnson has waded into the debate over the Northern Ireland protocol by failing to back the British government’s negotiating strategy. He advised it to instead press ahead with a domestic law to give it powers to unilaterally shelve parts of the previous deal between Britain and the European Union.

He said the Northern Ireland Protocol Bill, which he introduced and which soured relations with the EU, is “the best way forward”. The Bill’s critics say it allows Britain to breach an international treaty. It is mired in the House of Lords, where Conservative prime minister Rishi Sunak has let it lie.

Mr Johnson’s direct intervention this evening in an interview on Sky News is a headache for Mr Sunak, who is also facing a backbench rebellion from Eurosceptic members of his own party over ongoing attempts to renegotiate a deal with the EU.

Northern Ireland Protocol: how close are we to a deal?

Listen | 31:24

Mr Johnson was asked if he would back a deal negotiated with the EU by Mr Sunak, but avoided answering directly.

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“The best thing is to continue [with the Bill]. It’s a very good Bill. It fixes all the problems ... It’s an excellent Bill. It doesn’t set up any other problems in the economy of the whole of the island of Ireland as a whole,” he said.

Giving a thumbs up to the camera, he said: “I’d go with that one.”

Sources close to Mr Johnson told newspapers at the weekend that he wanted the Bill to be pursued, but his Sky interview was his first direct intervention on the matter.