Northern Ireland Protocol Bill, Second Reading

In October 2019 the Government agreed the terms of the Northern Ireland Protocol, to govern trade arrangements between the UK and EU in Northern Ireland, as part of its deal to leave the EU and claimed it was an “oven ready” deal.  Any attempts in Parliament to explain to the Government that woudl mean a border between GB and NI were dismissed.  The Government has now published legislation which seeks to undo parts of the Protocol, the Northern Ireland Protocol Bill.  The Second Reading of the Bill was debated in the Commons on Monday 27 June 2022.

Under the Protocol, Northern Ireland has retained alignment with the EU in some areas, such as customs checks and goods regulation. This arrangement was put in place with the objectives of avoiding border checks between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, and safeguarding the Good Friday Agreement. The Bill would renege on the trading arrangements the Government signed up to, as well as withdrawing from existing mechanisms for dispute resolution.

The Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney saying that the EU have proposed something to the Government’s “Green Lane” idea, and asked why the Government could not solve these issues through negotiation when the Troubles had been brought to an end through negotiation. At an EU:UK delegation meeting the EU were reaffirmed this was about implementation of the Protocol not the rewriting of an agreed international treaty.

The Government has a duty to prioritise negotiation above unilateral action. The Bill risks creating significant trading difficulties with the EU at time when the cost of living is already putting pressure on so many, and the continent is challenged to maintain unity in the face of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Moreover efforts by the UK to promote the rule of law around the world would be undermined if the UK Government breaks international law.  I voted against the Bill at Second Reading and a number of MPs from the Conservatives abstained including the former Prime Minister Theresa May who said during the debate she could not support the Bill.  However the Bill passed its 2nd Reading : Ayes: 295 and Noes: 221.