NI Protocol Bill gets second parliamentary reading as PM aims to get it passed by 'end of the year'

Mon 27 Jun 2022
Posted by: Phillip Adnett
Trade News

EU UK Dispute NI Protocol

The Northern Ireland Protocol Bill is receiving its second reading in Parliament today (27 June) with foreign secretary Liz Truss claiming that the legislation will fix the Protocol’s problems and uphold the Good Friday Agreement.

The government says the bill introduces solutions for burdensome customs processes, inflexible regulation, tax and spend discrepancies, and democratic governance issues.

It will avoid a hard border, safeguard the EU Single Market and ensure the integrity of the UK, the government claims.

‘Serious situation’

Writing in the FT, Truss said legislation was “the only way we can uphold the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement and fix the problems in Northern Ireland”.

Truss said that EU refusal to change the Protocol had forced the government’s hand.

“Following 18 months of discussions with the EU, the UK’s preference remains for a negotiated solution to fix the problems which are baked into the Protocol,” she said.

“But the EU must be willing to change the Protocol itself.  Ministers believe that the serious situation in Northern Ireland means they cannot afford to delay,” she added.

‘No delay’

The EU has said that the bill breaches international law and introduced three legal cases against the UK in response.

European Commission vice-president Maros Sefcovic indicated further retaliatory measures could follow if the UK pressed ahead.

‘Road to nowhere’

The EU ambassador to the UK, Joao Vale de Almeida, told Sky News’ Sophy Ridge On Sunday that ripping up post-Brexit trade arrangements in Northern Ireland was “illegal and unrealistic” and “a road to nowhere”.

He argued that the EU was “very committed to finding solutions”, but argued controls were needed to protect the Good Friday peace agreement and safeguard the EU single market.

Germany gets ‘blunter’

According to Politico, German chancellor Olaf Scholz is adopting a more direct style than his predecessor Angela Merkel in publicly rebuking Britain over its Brexit manoeuvres.

Officials said Berlin is now sending a “blunter” message that the UK must abandon any ambitions to rewrite the Protocol, with Germany wanting to dispel any suggestion that the row is an issue between the UK and Ireland only.

Legislation timing

Meanwhile, Boris Johnson told the BBC that he believed the legislation could be in place by the end of the year, “parliament willing”.

However, the Lords could vote down the bill, which would mean it would take another year before the government could pass it under the Parliament Act, reports the Guardian.

Lib Dem shift

Meanwhile, fresh off victory in the Tiverton and Honiton by-election, Liberal Democrat leader Ed Davey signaled his party might be taking a softer approach to Brexit.

Instead of seeking to re-join the single-market, Davey stated his support for a new trade deal with the EU, blaming Johnson’s current deal for the cost-of-living crisis.

“We want to focus on the issues that are affecting people and the cost-of-living crisis is partly caused because of the very bad trade deal. Its hit farmers, its hit fishermen, its hit small businesses, it’s hit exporters … we do need to have a much better trade deal with our EU neighbours,” he told BBC’s Sunday Morning.