Foreign Sec set to announce plans to rip up Northern Ireland Protocol

17 May 2022, 00:43 | Updated: 17 May 2022, 08:24

Liz Truss is set to announce plans to rip up part of the Northern Ireland Brexit deal
Liz Truss is set to announce plans to rip up part of the Northern Ireland Brexit deal. Picture: Alamy

By Daisy Stephens

The Foreign Secretary will on Tuesday declare her intention to bring forward legislation which rips up parts of the UK's post-Brexit trade deal on Northern Ireland.

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It is understood that Liz Truss will make the announcement in a statement to the Commons following a full Cabinet meeting, in an attempt to restore powersharing in the region.

The row over the Northern Ireland Protocol has created an impasse in efforts to form a new Executive in Stormont, with the Democratic Unionist Party refusing to join an administration unless its concerns over the arrangements are addressed.

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Northern Ireland secretary Brandon Lewis told LBC's Nick Ferrari this morning that he still thought there was a possibility of resolving the issue with the EU.

He said: "Absolutely I think there is a landing zone, we've always felt there's a landing zone where goods that are moving from Great Britain to Northern Ireland, that are being consumed and used by businesses in Northern Ireland therefore staying in the UK, should not being going through the same level of checks as products that are moving into the EU."

He added: "We've got to make sure goods moving within the UK do so freely, that's what the protocol itself actually intended to do."

However, on triggering Article 16, which allows the possibility of unilaterally suspending parts of the Brexit deal, he said: We've always said we’d keep all options on the table

"Ultimately as the UK government we have got to do the right thing for the people of Northern Ireland who are part of the UK... we want to do this by agreement with the EU but if we can't get a sensible outcome with the EU about these kinds of issues then we are going to have to look at what we do to secure those issues with the protocol.

"All parties in Northern Ireland see issues with the protocol that need to be resolved, we want to get them resolved."

Despite this claim, a majority of MLAs in Stormont's newly elected Assembly represent parties that support retaining the protocol, with many arguing that the arrangement offers the region protection from some of the negative economic consequences of Brexit.

They also point to the unfettered access Northern Ireland traders have to sell into the EU single market as a key benefit of the protocol.

Liz Truss will make the announcement on Tuesday
Liz Truss will make the announcement on Tuesday. Picture: Alamy

The move to rewrite parts of the deal could risk a trade war with the European Union.

But a Foreign Office source said "this isn't about picking a fight with the EU", saying that Ms Truss' priority is to uphold the Good Friday Agreement.

"The peace process and acting in the interests of Northern Ireland is what motivates her," they said.

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It is understood Ms Truss' ambition is to lay the legislation in Parliament within a couple of weeks, and certainly before the summer.

But the overwhelming preference is thought to remain a negotiated solution.

The Global Britain (Strategy) Committee, which consider matters relating to the UK's trade priorities, will meet first on Tuesday, followed by the full Cabinet, before Ms Truss delivers her statement to the Commons.

On Monday evening, the Foreign Secretary held calls with Ireland's foreign minister, Simon Coveney, and European Commission vice-president, Maros Sefcovic.

In both, Ms Truss said she underlined the importance of upholding the Good Friday Agreement and re-establishing the Northern Ireland Executive.

Mr Sefcovic later said engaging with "flexibilities" offered by the EU would be preferable to taking unilateral action on the protocol.

He tweeted: "With political will, practical issues arising from the implementation of the protocol in Northern Ireland can be resolved.

"Engaging with us on the flexibilities we offer would be a better course of action than unilateral one. We're ready to play our part, as from the outset."

It comes after the Prime Minister travelled to Belfast to meet leaders of the Stormont parties in an attempt to secure progress.

He also used Monday's trip to issue a warning to Brussels that the UK is prepared to rewrite unilaterally the terms of the Brexit deal he signed.

Mr Johnson described that plan as an "insurance" policy if a fresh deal could not be reached with the EU.

The threat of unilateral action has already gone down badly in European capitals, with EU leaders urging the UK Government to fully participate in talks.

Irish premier Micheal Martin on Monday said that the only way to resolve the row was "substantive talks" between the UK and the EU.