PM’s bid to scrap part of Northern Ireland Protocol wins first vote

·2-min read
Boris Johnson insisted leadership matters had been dealt with (Dan Kitwood/PA) (PA Wire)
Boris Johnson insisted leadership matters had been dealt with (Dan Kitwood/PA) (PA Wire)

Boris Johnson’s bid to unilaterally scrap parts of Northern Ireland’s Brexit deal has cleared its first Commons hurdle after MPs voted 295 to 221 to give key legislation a second reading.

The 74-strong majority will encourage the Prime Minister in his plan to effectively tear up parts of the Northern Ireland Protocol by the end of the year.

The Prime Minister, who is attending the G7 summit in Germany alongside EU leaders, said “the interesting thing is how little this conversation is being had, certainly here” – indicating he is not expecting a major diplomatic row over the Government’s plans.

Mr Johnson said the plan could be carried out “fairly rapidly”, with the proposals in law by the end of the year.

His administration has argued the measures to remove checks on goods and animal and plant products travelling from Great Britain to Northern Ireland are necessary to safeguard the Good Friday Agreement and peace and stability.

“What we are trying to do is fix something that I think is very important to our country, which is the balance of the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement,” he told reporters.

But his predecessor in No 10, Theresa May, led the criticism from the Tory benches as she delivered a withering assessment of the legality and impact of the Bill.

Mrs May made clear she would not support the legislation and warned it will “diminish” the UK’s global standing.

Other Tory MPs joined Mrs May in expressing concern, although they opted against seeking to block the Bill at second reading and instead appear likely to seek amendments.

The House of Lords is also expected to contest parts of the Bill, setting up a lengthy showdown between the two Houses.

Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis said the Northern Ireland Protocol Bill was “lawful”.

He told MPs: “I can assure this House that this legislation is not just necessary, it is lawful.

“Proceeding with this Bill is legal in international law and in support of our prior obligations to the Belfast Good Friday Agreement.

“The protocol is undermining all three strands of the Belfast Good Friday Agreement… and the institutions that underpin it.”

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