The Northern Ireland Protocol Bill has cleared its latest hurdle, having passed the committee stage today (20 July) and is expected to also pass tonight’s third reading.
The controversial bill – which would allow the government to unilaterally modify the protocol agreed between the EU and the UK – entered the third day of the committee stage after no significant amendments were made to the bill on the first day of debate, according to ITV.
More debate time
GB News notes that the government added more time for the bill to be debated before passing onto the third reading, clearing the path for the bill to be sent up to the House of Lords soon.
Boris Johnson used his final appearance at Prime Minister’s Questions to argue that the bill would support the Good Friday Agreement and the "balance and symmetry" of those arrangements, as reported in The Telegraph.
According to Politico, the immediate concern to Ireland’s government is whether Johnson’s eventual successor will opt for renewed negotiations with Brussels over passage of the bill.
Stephen Doughty, Labour’s minister for international development, spoke about opposition concerns over ‘Henry VIII powers’ in the bill.
According to Parliament’s website, a Henry VIII clause enables “ministers to amend or repeal provisions in an Act of Parliament using secondary legislation, which is subject to varying degrees of parliamentary scrutiny”.
Labour rejected the bill’s dual regulatory system on the second day of the committee stage, telling the government that businesses were not calling for it.
The system would see traders be given the option whether to uphold EU or UK standards or products when entering Northern Ireland, according to politics.co.uk.
Paymaster general Michael Ellis responded on behalf of the government, defending the bill and saying that it allowed for establishment of new arrangements for cooperation with EU authorities to monitor the trade boundary regime.
Ellis also argued that the proposed changes will enable the implementation of robust data sharing on the operation of the UK Trader Scheme and all goods moving between Great Britain and Northern Ireland.
According to RTE journalist Tony Connelly, an EU source said: “the passage of the bill to the Lords without significant amendments is likely to mean fresh legal action against the UK.”
As previously reported by the IOE&IT’s Daily Update, the EU initiated legal proceedings against the UK over purported breaches to the protocol.
Previously, Irish MEP Sean Kelly had urged Conservative leadership contenders to avoid the risk of a trade dispute, as reported by the BBC.