A Eurosceptic MP has urged Prime Minister Boris Johnson to stop payments to the EU until issues around the Northern Ireland Protocol are resolved.
The UK is currently still making payments to the EU as part of the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement. £20bn is set to be paid to the bloc over the next two years, with more to follow.
Conservative MP Mark Francois leads the party’s European Research Group and suggested the PM halt the payments until the protocol is addressed.
It has angered unionists in Northern Ireland who believe the agreement, to avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland, cuts the region off from the rest of the UK.
It keeps Northern Ireland in the European Single Market, aligned with the EU on trade rules.
Mr Francois told the Sunday Telegraph the money was “Danegeld”, a land tax levied in Anglo-Saxon England during the reign of King Ethelred to raise funds for protection against Danish invaders.
“Since we left the transition period the EU’s attitude has been increasing bellicose,” he said.
“First they criticised our ‘British’ vaccine and then attacked us for not giving them enough of it, then they triggered Article 16, in some overnight spasm, to create a hard border they had sworn to avoid and now they are petulantly refusing to ratify a trade deal which it took a year to negotiate.
“As Brits, we traditionally honour our obligations but you have to ask yourself why are we continuing to pay this Danegeld to people who only treat us with open contempt in return?”
Mark Francois (Victoria Jones/PA)
During a visit to Northern Ireland on Friday the PM admitted that the current working of the protocol was “unbalanced” and said his Government was working to address unionist concerns.
“The way it’s working at the moment is not adequate, taking proper account of the feelings and the attachments of one of the communities, I think we need to take a long, hard look at it. We need to make sure that it’s working in such a way as to operate with consent. It’s currently not operating with consent,” he said.
Unionists have rallied against the protocol with graffiti appearing across Northern Ireland. A legal challenge has also been launched.
The protocol has led to the Loyalist Communities Council, which represents paramilitaries including the UVF and UDA, to withdraw their support for the Good Friday Agreement.
Businesses have also complained that the protocol has created issues around importing goods from Great Britain.
The latest area to be affected by the protocol is the introduction of a more environmentally petrol, E10, in the UK.
The UK Government is set to legislate to allow E10 to be sold at UK petrol stations. However, it will not apply to Northern Ireland initially.
“The initial legislation will apply to Great Britain only. In line with our obligations under the Northern Ireland Protocol, we’ll also notify the European Commission of our intention to legislate for the introduction of E10 in Northern Ireland to ensure regulations are in place before the September 2021 change in petrol grade,” the Government said in a statement.
UUP MLA Roy Beggs said he was shocked by the development.
“As more and more problems arise it is becoming increasingly obvious that a border has been created in the Irish Sea and it may even have longer tentacles than unionists had feared,” he said.
“Our UK Government cannot even unilaterally assist in reducing CO2 emissions in Northern Ireland by legislating for E10 petrol and making continuing provision for E5 petrol at the same time as the rest of the UK. Instead, because of the NI Protocol, they must contact the EU Commission.”
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