NI protocol could be undermined by new UK bill

Sammy Wilson called for the withdrawal agreement to be scrapped. Picture by Matt Bohill
Paul Ainsworth

New legislation by the UK that will override parts of the Brexit withdrawal agreement including the Northern Ireland protocol could jeopardise trade deal talks between the UK and EU.

Northern Ireland customs procedures, which were the focus of the protocol to avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland, are understood to be parts of the withdrawal agreement whose legal force will be “eliminated” by the UK internal market bill due to be published on Wednesday.

The bill, details of which were revealed last night by the Financial Times, is designed to secure the “seamless functioning” of trade between the north and Britain after the end of the Brexit transition period on December 31.

As per the withdrawal agreement, the UK must notify the EU of any state aid decisions that would affect Northern Ireland’s goods market, and prompt businesses to file customs paperwork for goods exported to the rest of the UK.

However, clauses in the bill will direct UK courts to follow new UK laws rather than the process agreed with the EU.

Yesterday DUP MP Sammy Wilson called for the withdrawal agreement to be scrapped or “at the very least, significantly changed”.

Last night a government spokesperson said it was “working hard to resolve outstanding issues” with the protocol.

“As a responsible government, we are considering fall-back options in the event this is not achieved to ensure the communities of Northern Ireland are protected,” the spokesperson said.

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