Ms Truss told MPs today that “we remain open” to negotiations with the EU – but added that “we’ve been trying for 18 months [and] the EU have refused to change the protocol itself”.
Fielding questions in the Commons, Ms Truss began by saying: “We’ve been clear with the EU that the Northern Ireland protocol needs to change in order to uphold the Belfast/Good Friday agreement, ensure we have a free flow of goods from east to west, and protect the north-south relationship.
“Our preference is for a negotiated solution, but in the absence of the EU being willing to change the protocol, we’re pressing ahead with legislation.”
Labour’s Hilary Benn responded by saying that “not only did the Government negotiate and sign the Northern Ireland protocol, but the Prime Minister at the time [October 2019] described it as being ‘in perfect conformity with the Good Friday agreement’”.
Ms Truss replied: “Our priority as the UK Government is the Belfast Good Friday Agreement and we know that the Northern Ireland Protocol is undermining that agreement.”
She also stressed that the government’s bill is “both necessary and lawful”, in the face of claims that it would illegally invalidate the Protocol.
Alliance MP Stephen Farry asked “what is her strategy for getting back around the negotiating table with the European Union?”
Ms Truss replies that since a -year-and-a-half of talks have not yeilded a result, “we simply cannot allow the situation to drift”.
Another Labour figure, David Lammy, rose to say: “The protocol Bill introduced to this House last week breaks international law.
“It risks the integrity of the Good Friday agreement. It divides the UK and the European Union at a time when we should be pulling together against Putin’s war on our continent, and it risks causing new trade barriers during a cost of living crisis.”
She demanded that the government “get back to the hard work and graft of negotiating a practical way forward?”
“I am afraid to say that nothing the right honourable gentleman has just said is accurate,” replied Ms Truss.
“The fact is that our bill is legal, and we have laid it out in a legal statement.”