The Foreign Secretary will explain the new Brexit legislation to MPs this afternoon
The legislation will allow ministers to overrule parts of the Northern Ireland Protocol – which has been the subject of controversy since the Brexit deal was signed in December 2019.
Secretary of State Liz Truss is set to publish new legislation today to amend post-Brexit trade deals agreed with the EU.
So far, the government has insisted the move does not break international law – but critics, including the EU, are unconvinced.
here I takes a look at what the Northern Ireland Protocol is, what changes the UK is proposing and how the legislation is being received so far.
The Northern Ireland Protocol was implemented to avoid the introduction of a hard border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland.
During Brexit negotiations, all sides agreed that protecting the 1998 Northern Ireland Peace Agreement – known as the Good Friday Agreement – was an absolute priority.
This meant that the land border was kept open and no new infrastructure such as border posts and cameras was set up.
To this end, Northern Ireland was given a different status in trade with the EU than the rest of the UK.
It has been agreed that Northern Ireland will remain within the EU’s customs territory and will continue to abide by the EU’s internal market rules for goods.
This was done to prevent goods being inspected when traveling between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland.
Instead, checks would be carried out on goods entering Northern Ireland from England, Scotland or Wales. Inspections would also take place in Northern Ireland ports.
The controls have sparked criticism that a new border has effectively been created in the Irish Sea. Critics say the protocol undermines Northern Ireland’s position within the UK.
The protocol went into effect on January 1, 2021, albeit with a six-month grace period.
Both sides agreed to extend the grace period to September 30 while solutions were proposed.
As negotiations are still ongoing and no solution is in sight, the British government has announced that it will extend the grace period indefinitely.
That prompted the EU to take legal action against the UK, which has accused the government of breaching international law by failing to consult the bloc about the extension. The lawsuit was stayed in July 2021 as negotiations continued.
The new legislation will give Britain the power to unilaterally amend parts of the Northern Ireland Protocol.
In particular, it is likely to dismantle the trade controls mandated by the protocol, particularly in relation to agri-foodstuffs.
It is said to be accompanied by a legal statement from Attorney General Suella Braverman, who is expected to argue that the plans do not violate international law.
Last month Ms Truss presented the plan for the legislation, saying it was needed to respond to the “very serious and grave situation”.
She said the bill would preserve elements that work while fixing those that don’t – such as movement of goods, commodity regulation, VAT, subsidy control and governance.
The legislation could also give businesses in Northern Ireland the option to choose whether to follow UK or EU rules, depending on who they trade with.
Hardline Brexiteers have been vehemently opposed to the Northern Ireland Protocol since its inception and are likely to welcome today’s legislation.
Members of the Brexiteer MPs’ European Research Group (ERG) are expected to give their strong support to the proposals – so long as they have not been significantly watered down.