Trade Tuesday: Northern Ireland Protocol Bill – FAQs

By Sabine Tyldesley

Today Foreign Secretary Liz Truss gave a speech to the House of Commons informing Parliament of the Government’s intentions to bring in a Northern Ireland Protocol Bill. Check out our quick explainer for more information.

What is it? 

This is a Bill to legislate changes to the Northern Ireland Protocol, negotiated as part of the UK’s exit from the EU.

Has the Bill been published? 

No – but in her speech Liz Truss explained the Bill would uphold the Good Friday Agreement, address issues such as VAT, Subsidy Control and movements of goods, introduce a ‘trusted trader’ scheme, amend tax powers and introduce new ‘robust penalties’ to those breaking rules on the Protocol.

What is it trying to do? 

It aims to remove unnecessary bureaucracy for businesses moving goods between Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

The Bill would mean that British goods moving for sale in Northern Ireland only have to meet British standards, and not those of the EU; thereby addressing the challenge arising from EU exit on upholding free flow between GB and Northern Ireland while protecting the integrity of the EU’s Single Market which goods from NI enter when they cross the land border from NI into the Republic of Ireland.

What happens in the meantime? 

Over the next two weeks there will be parallel talks with EU’s Brexit negotiator Maros Šefčovič. In these both parties will continue to explore “the potential of the flexibilities” of the Protocol. 

So all good? 

Reaction from the EU has been diplomatic, aiming to temper talk of a “trade war” while standing firm on their commitment to the Protocol. Šefčovič says the UK plan to ignore parts of the Protocol “raises significant concerns”. If the UK goes ahead with this, Brussels will respond “with all measures at its disposal”, including possibly tariffs or indeed shelving the post-Brexit free trade deal. Ireland’s foreign affairs minister Simon Coveney also commented saying he “deeply regrets” the British government’s decision to introduce legislation.

When is the Bill coming? 

If talks fail, FCDO is expected to publish the Bill in the first week of June aiming for Second reading before the Commons rises for the Summer recess. Alongside the draft Bill, government is also expected to publish a Consultation for businesses and people in Northern Ireland to give their views on the proposals.