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Act of bad faith by Boris Johnson's government

Brexit has slipped under the radar for many people over the past few months and understandably so, given the overwhelming nature of the pandemic gripping countries around the world.

But in the background talks have been continuing over the shape of a trade agreement between the EU and the UK, due to come into effect by the end of this year.

Clearly, the short time frame has been challenging, not helped by attention being focused on coronavirus, but the British government ruled out extending the implementation period to allow for further discussions.

It will be recalled that we only got to this stage following the tortuous journey to secure the Withdrawal Agreement, a fraught process which served to underline the importance of avoiding a hard border on the island of Ireland.

Now Boris Johnson has caused consternation with his plan to override parts of the Northern Ireland protocol governing customs arrangements.

Leaders of the north's pro-Remain parties - Sinn Féin, the SDLP, Alliance Party and Green Party NI - have written a joint letter to the British government and the EU demanding that the terms of what is an international treaty are honoured.

They said that seeking to abandon safeguards and mitigations would amount to a 'serious betrayal', adding: "It would represent a shocking act of bad faith that would critically undermine the Good Friday Agreement political framework and peace process and the UK's ability to secure other crucial deals to protect the Northern Ireland economy.''

There is speculation that Mr Johnson's move is a negotiating ploy as the trade talks intensify but it speaks volumes about the character and trustworthiness of the British government that it is prepared to ride roughshod over a solemn agreement for purposes that remain unclear.

This development also poses questions about the DUP's position, with Arlene Foster last week saying she recognises the reality on the protocol while colleague Sammy Wilson insisted the party would not accept the Withdrawal Agreement.

It was perhaps inevitable that as we neared the endgame on trade talks the Boris Johnson and his advisers would use any device to increase pressure on the EU.

However, it looks as though once again Northern Ireland is being used and our concerns completely disregarded by a government whose interests lie elsewhere.

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