NI Protocol bill to promote dual regulatory regime and prioritise UK single market over that of EU

Wed 8 Jun 2022
Posted by: Noelle McElhatton
Trade News

ni protocol

Further details are emerging about what the government’s Northern Ireland Bill might contain.

The bill – expected to be unveiled next week – seeks to override the current Northern Ireland Protocol and is reported to be introducing the concept of a dual regulatory regime.

This is where goods produced in Great Britain would be free to circulate in NI and goods produced in NI would be free to circulate in Great Britain.

Foreign Secretary Liz Truss added the changes would remove "unnecessary bureaucracy" for businesses sending goods from Britain to Northern Ireland, and would remove the need for an Irish Sea border.

Legality

But before the legislation has been published, there is still significant speculation around its legality.

Earlier this year, attorney general Suella Braverman said any changes would be legal. The government is claiming it has been forced into making changes thanks to months of fruitless negotiations with the European Union.

The government also claims it has a higher obligation to protect the 1998 Good Friday Agreement.

But as reported in PoliticsHome today, a senior Tory figure said that any new law cannot "credibly" be claimed that it is needed because there is no alternative to unilaterally disapplying the treaty.

According to Jesse Norman, a former Treasury minister, any breach of the protocol would be “economically very damaging, politically foolhardy, and almost certainly illegal.”

Commentators are already worried about what the implications of a dual regulatory regime might be – chief of which is the fact that some exports (such as grain) would not be recognised as being produced to EU standards.

Parliamentary passage

Even when the full details are published, it is highly likely any proposed legislation will be met with a bumpy ride through parliament.

The FT reports that party grandees “will fight the passage of the bill through parliament.” 

The Times adds that the legislation is expected to be “vocally opposed” by some senior MPs on the left of the Conservative party. It adds that it is also likely to face stiff opposition in the Lords, with Conservative peers expected to join Labour and crossbench peers to delay the proposals.

The legislation is expected to be published either today or tomorrow, although it is possible it could be delayed if it has not received Cabinet sign-off.

‘Historic low point’

In an address to the European parliament this morning (Wednesday 8 June), Irish premier Micheál Martin warned that dismantling the protocol would be a “historic low point” and “deeply damaging”.

The Irish Taoiseach (prime minister) cited the war in Urkaine and that by ignoring its obligations under international law, the British government would make the world less safe, the Guardian reports.