Britain and Brussels are currently locked in talks as they try to fix issues with the Northern Ireland Protocol.
Mr Johnson said last night he would ‘rather find a negotiated solution’ and a deal with the bloc ‘still seems possible’.
But he disregarded trade war threats from the EU as he repeated his warning that the UK is willing to trigger Article 16 of the protocol which would allow Britain to unilaterally suspend post-Brexit checks.
European Commission vice-president Maros Sefcovic said yesterday that if the UK suspends parts of the protocol it would have ‘serious consequences’ for Northern Ireland and Brussels’ relationship with the UK.
Boris Johnson has insisted it would be ‘perfectly legitimate’ for the UK to tear up post-Brexit border rules in Northern Ireland if improvements cannot be agreed with the EU
European Commission vice-president Maros Sefcovic said yesterday that if the UK suspends parts of the protocol it would have ‘serious consequences’ for Northern Ireland and Brussels’ relationship with the UK
The Northern Ireland Protocol, agreed as part of the original Brexit deal, requires checks on goods to be carried out at ports in order to avoid the return of a land border with the Republic.
But it has caused disruption to trade and angered unionists who have demanded the rules be scrapped, arguing they create a barrier between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK.
The UK and the EU have been holding talks for months on how to improve the operation of the protocol but a breakthrough remains elusive.
The Government has repeatedly threatened to trigger Article 16 if the EU does not give ground.
Unilaterally tearing up the border arrangements would almost certainly result in a legal challenge from the EU.
Mr Johnson said in a speech to the Lord Mayor’s Banquet at the Guildhall in central London last night: ‘Let me say – given all the speculation – that we would rather find a negotiated solution to the problems created by the Northern Ireland Protocol, and that still seems possible.
‘But if we do invoke Article 16 – which by the way is a perfectly legitimate part of that Protocol – we will do so reasonably and appropriately, because we believe it is the only way left to protect the territorial integrity of our country, and meet our obligations to the people of Northern Ireland under the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement.’
Downing Street said yesterday that there are still ‘significant gaps’ between the UK and the EU and the conditions to invoke Article 16 had been met.
The Prime Minister’s Official Spokesman would not put a deadline on how long talks would continue, but said: ‘We are going to be continuing talks, intensified talks, between the two teams to try and find a consensual solution.’
The Northern Ireland Protocol, agreed as part of the original Brexit deal, requires checks on goods to be carried out at ports in order to avoid the return of a land border with the Republic
He added: ‘I wouldn’t seek to put a time limit on it. I think the most important thing is to not place a time limit on it which could hinder potential progress.’
Speaking to Irish politicians, Mr Sefcovic said he would not speculate on whether the UK will trigger Article 16.
‘However, it is clear that if they were to do so, the EU would have to consider all tools at our disposal,’ he added.
‘It would also have serious consequences for Northern Ireland and for our relationship with UK.’