UK plays down impact of new Brexit legislation on Northern Ireland protocol

The British government has sought to play down the significance of planned legislation affecting the Northern Ireland protocol, insisting that it remains committed to implementing the Brexit withdrawal agreement in full.

A bill to be published on Wednesday will include provisions to circumscribe the protocol’s influence on Britain’s state aid policy and will make clear that goods moving from Northern Ireland to Great Britain will not have to be accompanied by an export declaration. A finance bill in the coming weeks will say that British ministers will decide which goods moving from Great Britain to Northern Ireland are deemed “at risk” of proceeding into the EU’s single market.

Downing Street said cabinet office minister Michael Gove would continue to negotiate the details of implementing the protocol in a joint committee with European Commission vice-president Maros Sevcovic. But Boris Johnson’s official spokesman said the government was legislating to ensure that there would be no “inadvertent consequences” if all the details were not agreed by the end of the year.

“The Northern Ireland Protocol was designed as a way of implementing the needs of our exit from the EU in a way that worked for Northern Ireland and in particular for maintaining the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement, the gains of the Peace Process, and the delicate balance between both communities’ interests.

“It explicitly depends on the consent of the people of Northern Ireland for its continued existence. As we implement the Northern Ireland Protocol this overriding need must be kept in mind,” the spokesman said.