Government planning legislation to override Protocol in anticipation of Stormont elections fallout

Fri 22 Apr 2022
Posted by: William Barns-Graham
Trade News

ni protocol

The government is to introduce new legislation allowing it override the Northern Ireland Protocol, according to reports in the national media.

Boris Johnson and foreign secretary Liz Truss are said to have signed off on plans in principle to put forward a Northern Ireland bill during the next parliamentary session.

Stormont role

According to FT sources, the plan would come into effect if Unionist parties refuse to take their place in the power-sharing Assembly following the Stormont elections in May.

Unionists disengaged from the Assembly when First Minister Paul Givan resigned in February in opposition to the Protocol.

EU upset

The decision to bring in legislation would anger Brussels which is still hoping to reach an accommodation with the UK on how to make the Northern Ireland Protocol work.

The Times reports government sources insisting that a final decision has yet to be made, but claims Truss has been impatient to force a solution to the stand-off, even considering triggering Article 16 before the elections.

The government said: “No decisions have yet been taken and our overriding priority continues to be the protection of peace and stability in Northern Ireland. As we have said consistently, the government will take measures to safeguard the Belfast [Good Friday] Agreement if solutions cannot be found to fix the Protocol.”

Movement required

Northern Ireland minister Conor Burns has said the government will “take remedial action” to scrap the Protocol “if there isn’t movement” from EU, reports the Independent.

Burns refused to be drawn on the FT report about the legislation but said it was clear that the Protocol is not working in the way that “was intended” and the government already has powers under Article 16 to suspend elements of it.

Flexibility

Speaking in Washington, Valdis Dombrovskis, the vice president of the European Commission, said there is enough flexibility in the EU’s approach to ensure the Protocol is implemented as agreed.

“From the EU side we have shown lots of goodwill and lots of flexibility in proposing the UK so-called bespoke arrangements on providing additional flexibilities and procedural easings in the implementation of the Northern Ireland Protocol,” he said, according to RTE.

He made the remarks after a meeting with the US Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo, which largely dealt with coordinated sanctions and export controls on Russia over its invasion of Ukraine.