MPs warn of trade war with EU over NI Protocol plans

·4-min read
MPs warn of trade war with EU over NI Protocol plans
MPs warn of trade war with EU over NI Protocol plans

MPS have warned that the UK government's plans to rip up the Northern Ireland Protocol will start a trade war with the EU.

Foreign Secretary Liz Truss announced in the Commons today that the government plans to bring in legislation in the next few weeks which would dismantle parts of the trade agreement.

Among the measures, a green and red system could be implemented for goods flowing between Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

READ MORE: UK Government laws to rip up Northern Ireland protocol planned within weeks

Goods which are not moving out of NI would be able to use the green lane, while those moving onward into the EU would go through the red lane and subject to more stringent checks.

However this has not been agreed by the EU, and MPs have warned that the move risks starting a trade war with the bloc, which could drive up the prices of food and other items.

The UK Government insists the legislation does not break international law, however the foreign secretary was unable to explain how or why, saying only in response to questions that further details would be set out in the coming weeks.

Caroline Lucas, Green MP, asked Ms Truss "why she is laying the ground for a trade war with our largest trading partners just as the Bank of England is warning of an apocalyptic rise in food prices?”

Ms Truss said: “Our proposed solution reduces bureaucracy all round and makes the EU no worse off in that we continue to protect the single market, we continue to supply that commercial data, we will have strong enforcement mechanisms.”

READ MORE: Sinn Fein blasts Boris Johnson's 'shameful' approach to NI Protocol as DUP calls for action

Labour shadow Foreign office minister Stephen Doughty said the plans could impact any future trade deals the UK may want to strike up with other countries.

He said: "Britain should be a country that keeps its word.

“The rest of the world is looking at us and wondering if we are a country that they want to do business with.

“When we seek to negotiate new deals abroad, does the Government want to make other countries question whether we will keep our end of the bargain?"

He added that the UK should be trying to collaborate with the EU "in support of Ukraine" rather than "fuelling divisions with our European allies."

Tory MP Simon Hoare, chair of the Northern Ireland Affairs committee, quoted Margaret Thatcher when raising concerns about law-breaking, adding: "Respect for the rule of law runs deep in our Tory veins. I find it extraordinary that a Tory government needs to be reminded of that.

“Could (Liz Truss) assure me that support for and honouring of the rule of law is what she and the Government is committed to?"

READ MORE: NI Protocol needs fixed says Boris Johnson after meetings with leaders

The Foreign Secretary reiterated again that the planned legislation complies with international law, saying: "I can assure (Mr Hoare) that we are committed to upholding the rule of law, we’re clear that this Bill is legal in international law and we will set out the legal position in due course.”

SNP Northern Ireland spokesman Richard Thomson said his party recognised the “hurt and upset” caused to many by the protocol, but warned the arrangement has consequences for the rest of the UK beyond Northern Ireland.

He called for a negotiated settlement, adding: “Threats of unilateral legislative action by this Government to override its own deal are very unlikely to be taken seriously in Belfast, they won’t be taken seriously in Brussels, and there’s absolutely no reason why it should be taken seriously in this place either.”

Liberal Democrat Foreign Affairs spokeswoman Layla Moran said the plans could risk raising the prices of food even higher.

She said: "Any responsible Government would today be announcing an emergency VAT cut to combat soaring bills and food costs. Instead Boris Johnson’s Conservatives are putting forward plans that will make it even harder for the millions of families who are struggling to make ends meet.

“If the Conservatives go ahead with these plans, they risk starting a trade war with our largest trading partner which will turn a cost of living crisis into a catastrophe."

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