Northern Ireland Protocol Bill progresses to second stage, with condemnation from former PM Theresa May

Northern Ireland Protocol Bill progresses to second stage, with condemnation from former PM Theresa May

LEGISLATION TO disregard parts of the Northern Ireland Protocol has cleared the first stage of the House of Commons, with MPs voting to a majority of 74 votes.

MPs voted 295 to 221, paving the way for the Bill to receive a second reading and detailed scrutiny in the coming weeks.

No Conservative MP voted against the bill, but several chose to abstain, including former Prime Minister Theresa May who said she would not support the bill and warned that it would diminish the UK's global standing.

"The UK’s standing in the world, our ability to convene and encourage others in the defence of our shared values, depends on the respect others have for us as a country, a country that keeps its word, and displays those shared values in its actions," she said.

“As a patriot, I would not want to do anything that would diminish this country in the eyes of the world.

“I have to say to the Government, this Bill is not, in my view, legal in international law, it will not achieve its aims, and it will diminish the standing of the United Kingdom in the eyes of the world, and I cannot support it.”

Foreign Secretary Liz Truss has this week said the protocol is undermining the Good Friday Agreement.

"Aside from its many practical problems, it has created a growing sense that the rights and aspirations of some parts of the community are being undermined," she said.

"Ideally, we would fix these problems through negotiation, but the EU has ruled out changing the text of the protocol. Northern Ireland has been without a fully functioning executive since February because of the protocol, at the time of a cost of living crisis and many other challenges."

Therefore, she said, "it is the duty of this government, as co-signatory and co-guarantor of the agreement, but also as the sovereign government in Northern Ireland, to act."

"We are moving forward with legislation to fix the specific problems that the protocol is causing while maintaining those parts that are working. This is both necessary and legal. All other options within the current EU mandate are currently exhausted.

"Our solution protects the EU’s single market and leaves the EU no worse off than it is today."

She said the protocol "was not set in stone forevermore on signing," and as a result the EU need to "change their mandate and accept the need to change the protocol itself, as was always provided for."

"However, we cannot afford to delay. Given where we are, the only way we can uphold the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement and fix the problems in Northern Ireland is through legislation.

"Once it is through, we will have a solution that ensures the agreement is upheld in all its dimensions, helping to restore the balance between communities and honour our commitments to the people of Northern Ireland.

"Meanwhile, the UK and EU can focus their full efforts on working together on issues such as Ukraine for the betterment not just of Europe but the world."

Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney has said he is "hugely disappointed that the British government is continuing to pursue its unlawful unilateral approach on the Protocol on Northern Ireland."

"This is not the way to fund sustainable solutions to the genuine concerns of people and business in NI and only adds to uncertainty. I continue to urge the British government to return to constructive dialogue with the EU in pursuit of jointly agreed, long-lasting solutions."

The DUP is currently refusing to enter power-sharing in Northern Ireland until its concerns about the protocol are addressed.

"We want to see the Northern Ireland Assembly and Executive restored and that can be achieved when there is a sustainable basis for doing so," said DUP leader Jeffrey Donaldson at the reading of the Bill yesterday. "We will continue to be condition and not calendar led as we look forward to this bill now making rapid progress.

"I commend this Bill and we will be supporting it in the interests of Northern Ireland and the integrity of the whole United Kingdom."