The government has introduced legislation to fix parts of the Northern Ireland Protocol to restore stability and ensure the delicate balance of the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement is protected.
The Northern Ireland Protocol Bill will allow the government to address the practical problems the Protocol has created in Northern Ireland in four key areas: burdensome customs processes, inflexible regulation, tax and spend discrepancies and democratic governance issues.
These problems include disruption and diversion of trade and significant costs and bureaucracy for business. They are undermining all 3 strands of the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement and have led to the collapse of the power-sharing arrangements at Stormont.
Following 18 months of discussions with the EU, the UK’s preference remains for a negotiated solution to fix these problems which are baked into the Protocol. But the EU must be willing to change the Protocol itself. Ministers believe that the serious situation in Northern Ireland means they cannot afford to delay.
Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said:
“This Bill will uphold the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement and support political stability in Northern Ireland. It will end the untenable situation where people in Northern Ireland are treated differently to the rest of the United Kingdom, protect the supremacy of our courts and our territorial integrity.
“This is a reasonable, practical solution to the problems facing Northern Ireland. It will safeguard the EU Single Market and ensure there is no hard border on the island of Ireland. We are ready to deliver this through talks with the EU. But we can only make progress through negotiations if the EU are willing to change the Protocol itself – at the moment they aren’t. In the meantime the serious situation in Northern Ireland means we cannot afford to allow the situation to drift.”
The changes are designed to protect all 3 strands of the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement, including North-South cooperation, and support stability and power-sharing in Northern Ireland. They will provide robust safeguards for the EU Single Market, underpinned by a Trusted Trader scheme and real-time data sharing to give the EU confidence that goods intended for Northern Ireland are not entering its market. The legislation also ensures goods moving between Great Britain and the EU are subject to EU checks and customs controls.