Tuesday, 14 June 2022

Northern Ireland Protocol - a government Bill

See end of post for links ....

As reported in a post of 12 May 2022, the post-Brexit relationship between the UK government and the EU is marked by continual tensions arising in connection with the Northern Ireland Protocol (NIP). The NIP is an integral part of the Withdrawal Agreement entered into between the UK and EU in 2019.

The Withdrawal Agreement (WA) was signed on behalf of the UK by Boris Johnson shortly after his party won the 2019 general election. The Withdrawal Agreement - including the NIP - bind the UK in international law.

Some negotiations between the UK and the EU took place and here is a summary up to the end of October 2021 - Four non-papers and a command paper - Queen's Policy Engagement (qub.ac.uk)

Furthermore, there has been much noise from within government about the possibility of "triggering" Article 16 of the NIP - Law and Lawyers: Article 16 of the Northern Ireland Protocol (obiterj.blogspot.com). However, the government has now chosen not to follow that route.

Instead,

the government has put a Northern Ireland Protocol Bill to the House of Commons and has backed up the Bill by a published legal position -

Northern Ireland Protocol Bill - Parliamentary Bills - UK Parliament

Northern Ireland Protocol Bill: UK government legal position - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)

This follows on from a statement by the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary (Liz Truss MP) to the House of Commons (17 May 2022) - 

Northern Ireland Protocol: Foreign Secretary's statement, 17 May 2022 - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)

Explanatory notes to the Bill have also been published - Notes - Northern Ireland Protocol Bill

The Bill starts with the following curious Clause -

The clause is curious because it appears to merely set out what the Act seeks to do but does not, in itself, seem to make any new law. It reads more like a lengthy preamble.  Of course, the clause makes it very plain that Ministers will be granted extensive powers in relation to the protocol's effect in the UK.

Needless to say, the government's actions have already been the subject of considerable comment in the media and elsewhere and some links appear below.

The immediate appearance is that of a government willing to ride roughshod over an international agreement entered into willingly by Prime Minister Johnson in December 2019. The consequences of that for UK-EU relations may be very profound and the UK is showing, to the world at large, a worrying willingness to breach its international obligations.

House of Commons Library - explainer:

Northern Ireland Protocol - House of Commons Library (parliament.uk)

Media links:

NI Protocol: UK reveals plans to ditch parts of EU Brexit deal - BBC News

52 of 90 MLAs sign letter to Prime Minister Boris Johnson rejecting legislation to amend Northern Ireland Protocol (msn.com)

EU ‘will restart legal action’ against UK over Northern Ireland Protocol (msn.com)

Liz Truss says decision to ditch parts of EU Brexit deal is ‘reasonable and practical’ – live | Politics | The Guardian

https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2022/jun/13/is-northern-ireland-protocol-bill-just-relatively-trivial-set-of-adjustments

https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2022/jun/15/northern-ireland-protocol-what-is-the-uk-and-the-eus-standoff-about

Britain’s attack on its own protocol is one more exercise in Brexit gaslighting | Fintan O’Toole | The Guardian

Britain has a decision to make: the rule of Boris Johnson – or the rule of law? | Jonathan Freedland | The Guardian

Addendum 23 June 2022 -

Additional analysis / commentary may be seen at 

Northern Ireland Protocol Bill: A Rule of Law Analysis of its Compliance with International Law (biicl.org)

Does the Vienna Convention provide a legal off-ramp for unilaterally changing the Northern Ireland Protocol? (biicl.org)

Solon Solomon: The Northern Ireland Protocol Bill: A comparative perspective on the parliamentary role in the amendment of major international agreements – UK Constitutional Law Association

Addendum 28 June 2022:

The Bill received its 2nd reading in the House of Commons by a vote of 295 to 221 - see Hansard - Northern Ireland Protocol Bill - Hansard - UK Parliament

Addendum 29 June 2022:

Tory rebel seeks ‘meaningful vote’ over Northern Ireland protocol bill powers | Politics | The Guardian

Addendum 3 July 2022:

Germany and Ireland denounce Boris Johnson’s bid to ditch Northern Ireland protocol | Brexit | The Guardian

Addendum 5 July 2022:

Northern Ireland Protocol Bill: is it all just a ploy? « UK Trade Policy Observatory (sussex.ac.uk)

Four reasons why the UK’s Northern Ireland Protocol bill is a mistake | Centre for European Reform (cer.eu)



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