Liz Truss and Maros Sefcovic have so far failed to reach agreement on reform of the protocol (Photo: Rob Pinney via PA Wire/PA Images)
The European Union has raised the prospect of a trade war with the UK after Liz Truss unveiled the government’s plans to unilaterally rip up the Northern Ireland protocol.
European Commission vice-president Maros Sefcovic said the bloc will “need to respond with all measures at its disposal” if the UK government presses ahead with legislation to over-ride the post-Brexit agreement on trade between Great Britain and the province.
A trade war could see punishing tariffs being slapped on British goods being sold to the EU, harming UK businesses and driving up prices in the shops.
Truss told MPs that ministers were prepared to bring forward a new law within weeks unless the EU agrees to renegotiate the protocol, something it has so far refused to do.
The agreement, which Boris Johnson signed up to, introduces customs checks on goods travelling between Great Britain and Northern Ireland.
That has led to the DUP refusing to enter a power-sharing executive with Sinn Fein unless the protocol is radically redrawn.
In her Commons statement, Truss proposed separate “green” and “red” lanes for goods travelling between Great Britain and Northern Ireland, with those destined to stay within the UK freed from EU-level checks.
She said the bill will put in place the necessary measures to “lessen the burden on east-west trade and to ensure the people of Northern Ireland are able to access the same benefits as the people of Great Britain”.
But in response, Sefcovic said: “Should the UK decide to move ahead with a bill disapplying constitutive elements of the protocol as announced today by the UK Government, the EU will need to respond with all measures at its disposal.
“Our overarching objective is to find joint solutions within the framework of the protocol. That is the way to ensure legal certainty and predictability for people and businesses in Northern Ireland.
“With political will and commitment, practical issues arising from the implementation of the protocol in Northern Ireland can be resolved.
“The European Commission stands ready to continue playing its part, as it has from the outset.”
Boris Johnson insisted problems with the protocol must be addressed.
On a visit to Paddington station, west London, he said: “What that actually involves is getting rid of some relatively minor barriers to trade.
“I think there are good, common sense, pragmatic solutions. We need to work with our EU friends to achieve that.”
This article originally appeared on HuffPost UK and has been updated.