Crucial legislation to overhaul the Northern Ireland Protocol will appear at Westminster next week as EU stance ‘hardens’

The government’s proposed bill that will enable it to override the Northern Ireland Protocol is scheduled on the Parliamentary order paper for Monday, it emerged last night.

The Northern Ireland Protocol is on page five of the House of Commons agenda.

It states that Secretary Liz Truss will propose a “bill to make provision about the effect in domestic law of the Protocol on Ireland/Northern Ireland in the EU withdrawal agreement, about other domestic law in subject areas dealt with by the Protocol and for connected purposes”.

Unionists had been concerned that the bill’s delayed launch in Parliament this week signalled that Boris Johnson’s administration was back-tracking on the bill.

The Northern Ireland Protocol legislation is scheduled on the Parliamentary order paper for Monday

The bill’s presence on the order of business confirms that the Foreign Secretary will drive forward legislation enabling the government to change the post Brexit deal.

Sources said the new legislation will radically alter the protocol in three key areas: east-west trade between Great Britain and Northern Ireland; the role of the European Court of Justice (ECJ) governing legal disputes in the Province and the EU directives on state aid and uniform VAT rates.

The changes to the post-Brexit deal would mean two new channels at NI ports for goods coming into the Province from GB with a ‘green channel’ for those only ending up here and checks only in the ‘red channel’ for those goods destined for the Republic and the EU single market.

The powers of the ECJ would also be radically reduced and NI would be able to avail of VAT cuts and other forms of emergency state aid without approval from the EU, the sources said.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer in The Long Room at Trinity College in Dublin yesterday where he saw the Book of Kells. He said he does not believe Northern Ireland is "anywhere near" a border poll

Meanwhile, Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney claimed yesterday that the EU’s stance on the protocol has “hardened” in the face of the UK threat to unilaterally scrap part of the arrangements.

Mr Coveney urged the UK to step back from its plan to publish domestic legislation that would override elements of the post-Brexit protocol governing trade between GB and NI.

The government is expected to table its controversial bill in Westminster next week amid reports of differences within the Cabinet on how far-reaching the legislative proposals should be.

Mr Coveney said publishing the legislation would “cause a lot more problems than it solves” in respect of Anglo-Irish relations and UK-EU relations.

He added: “My message to the British government is a very clear one, which is that if you are genuinely interested in negotiated solutions to these problems, and there are problems in terms of the protocol and its implementation, well then let’s see some evidence as to a willingness to negotiate seriously those solutions through compromise, through flexibility.”

He and Taoiseach Micheal Martin held talks with Labour Party leader Sir Keir Starmer in Dublin yesterday to discuss the ongoing stand-off over arrangements that require regulatory checks and customs declarations on goods moving within the UK to NI.

Sir Keir accused Mr Johnson of taking a “wrecking ball” to relations with the Republic and the EU.

Later the Labour leader said he does not believe Northern Ireland is close to a border poll. He told RTE: “I don’t think we are anywhere near a border poll. I think it is a hypothetical question. What we’re dealing with is practical issues in relation to trade now that the UK has left the EU, so I don’t think a border is anywhere near, even on the horizon, and therefore it’s a hypothetical question,” Sir Keir said.

He said that what citizens in Northern Ireland really wanted instead was for their politicians to resolve practical issues for people. Prior to his radio interview the Labour leader accused Mr Johnson of being more interested in “saving his own skin” than repairing relations with Ireland- EU.

The Labour leader, who meets the NI parties today, said the challenges posed by the protocol can only be overcome by trust on all sides.

“Of course there are challenges with the protocol, but I think we’ve faced much greater challenges than that in our shared history,” Sir Keir said.

Sinn Fein vice-president Michelle O’Neill last night claimed the DUP was “holding Boris Johnson down” by forcing the Tories to legislate against the protocol.

l Morning View, page 16