Why Britain’s plan to scrap part of the Brexit deal is so controversial

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson welcomes Portuguese leader António Costa to 10 Downing Street on June 13, the day Johnson's government offered a plan for revising the Northern Ireland Protocol. (Aaron Chown/AP)
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A post-Brexit spat between Britain and the European Union is threatening to spiral into an all-out trade war. The two sides are at odds over the complicated status of Northern Ireland, a British province that effectively stayed in the E.U.’s single market even as the rest of the country withdrew from the 28-member bloc.

The impetus is a new plan by British Prime Minister Boris Johnson to tear up part of the agreement that facilitated Britain’s orderly exit from the E.U. — a deal that he negotiated himself in 2019.

One of the main goals of the Brexit negotiations was to maintain an open, peaceful border between Northern Ireland and Ireland, an E.U. member, as part of the 1998 peace treaty that ended decades of conflict in the north. But now Britain says the rules governing that arrangement — known as the Northern Ireland Protocol — have disrupted trade between the province and the mainland, essentially creating an internal border in the Irish Sea.

Some experts are worried that Johnson’s move to end the protocol could destabilize Northern Ireland and potentially reignite the sectarian violence that plagued it for 30 years.

Here’s what to know about Johnson’s plan.

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