Government publishes Northern Ireland Protocol Bill; significant changes in four key areas; legislation will end untenable situation, vows Foreign Secretary Liz Truss

The Government has published legislation which will radically alter the nature of the Northern Ireland Protocol.

The bill will make significant changes to the post-Brexit trade arrangement which unionists believe has de-coupled Northern Ireland economically from the rest of the United Kingdom and threatens the Province’s constitutional position within the Union.

In defiance of Brussels, the bill will change the Protocol in four key areas:

* Green and red channels will be created at Northern Irish ports to remove unnecessary costs and paperwork on goods moving from GB to NI. Only goods going on into the Irish Republic will be checked in red channel areas.

Checks taking place at the Port of Larne earlier this year. The UK Government is legislating for green and red channels to be created at Northern Irish ports - only goods going on to the Irish Republic will be checked in red channel areas

* Businesses will have the choice of placing goods on the market only to NI or those where EU rules apply. This will ensure that Northern Ireland consumers are not prevented from buying UK standard goods.

* NI can now benefit from the same tax breaks as the rest of the UK including VAT cuts on energy saving materials as well as Covid recovery loans.

* A new independent UK arbitration body to rule on disputes rather than the European Court of Justice having the final say.

Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said the legislation will “uphold the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement and support political stability in Northern Ireland.”

She said: “It will end the untenable situation where people in Northern Ireland are treated differently to the rest of the United Kingdom, protect the sovereignty of our courts and our territorial integrity.”

Ms Truss continued: “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 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 Foreign Secretary added: “As the government of the whole United Kingdom, it is our duty to take the necessary steps to preserve peace and stability.”

The Government insisted today that the legislation was consistent with international law and that there also remains a provision in the bill for it to be replaced with a negotiated settlement, if one is agreed with the EU.

The 10-page bill also identifies a number of practical problems with trade that the Protocol has caused, such as the fact that only a sixth of goods from GB into NI are deemed at risk by the EU of entering the Single Market. However, as the legislation points out, the Protocol currently subjects all goods from GB to a full range of sea port border checks.

This is described in the bill as “disproportionate and unsustainable.”

Under the new “green lane-red lane” system there will be a “trusted trader scheme” for the green section where GB suppliers will provide detailed information on their operations and supply chains. Meanwhile, non-commercial goods such as post and parcels will go automatically through the green lane.

There will also be strict and substantial penalties - including the possibility of criminal action - against traders who abuse the new green lane-red lane system, the bill states.

Although Foreign Secretary Truss and her predecessor Lord Frost met with European Commission Vice-President Maros Sefcovic on 26 occasions to put forward proposals on addressing the Protocol there were no breakthroughs leading to a deal between London and Brussels.