The Northern Ireland Protocol Bill has passed its second reading in the House of Commons, by 295 votes to 221 – a significant number of Conservative MPs appear to have abstained, including former Prime Minister Teresa May, who criticized the Bill in strong terms.
If passed, the Bill will give the government authority to introduce secondary legislation to unilaterally adjust parts of the Northern Ireland Protocol, to improve movement of goods (including agri-food goods) from Great Britain to Northern Ireland.
It is not yet clear exactly, what the government may seek to do – consultations are under way, but officials will need to begin technical work on a revised framework soon, so that a plan will be in place if and when the Bill passes.
Foreign Secretary Liz Truss has emphasized the need for action to resolve weaknesses in the current Protocol, not only to improve trade, but also to resolve political deadlocks in Northern Ireland.
However, the EU has opposed UK government plans and has threatened to seek legal remedies. Irish Taoiseach Michael Martin has also been outspoken.
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