Massive Brexit change for Northern Ireland to be revealed tomorrow – what it all means


Boris Johnson is set to unveil long-awaited plans on Monday to tear up parts of the Brexit deal he signed in 2020.

Ministers today insisted their changes to the Northern Ireland Protocol do not breach international law – but criticism is mounting.

Northern Ireland Minister Brandon Lewis defended the plans after the law was signed by members of the cabinet last Wednesday.

He said the government was trying to “solve the problems” with the way the post-Brexit trade deal would be implemented for the Irish border.

“What we are going to do is lawful and correct,” he said.

But he refused to say what legal advice the government was seeking – or even whether the full legal position would be made public.

Mr Lewis’ claims were questioned by Sinn Fein, who accused him of “talking through his hat”, insisting the protocol was working and the government’s plans would result in “untold economic damage”.

Northern Ireland Minister Brandon Lewis defended the plans after the law was signed by members of the cabinet last Wednesday



And Shadow’s Brexit Secretary, Baroness Chapman, told the Mirror: “Boris Johnson is trying to salvage his troubled leadership by breaking the emergency glass that reads ‘Brexit Row’.

“The government’s new Northern Ireland law is a desperate attempt to divert the attention of a disappointed and battered public from its chaotic Tory leadership.”

Senior Tories are concerned about the changes. The chairman of the Northern Ireland Committee, Simon Hoare, warned last week that the dispute was being used to trigger a “punch up” with the EU.

Labor has vowed to vote against the bill and the rebel Tories today shared a briefing document saying it was “fundamentally damaging to the Union” of the UK.

But even if some Tory MPs rebel, the new law is likely to make it through the Commons as it also has the support of the DUP and Boris Johnson still has a large majority.

That would mean only trouble in the House of Lords.

So what is the protocol and why is it all important? Here’s your guide before the law is published tomorrow.

What is the Northern Ireland Protocol?

Part of the Brexit deal signed by Boris Johnson to take us out of the EU in January 2020, it governs how companies trade between the UK and Northern Ireland.

Northern Ireland is the only part of the UK that borders an EU country – the Republic of Ireland.

Thanks to the legacy of the riots, we had to avoid that 310-mile land border going “hard” – with controls and checkpoints.

But for that, Northern Ireland had to be put under some EU rules instead.

This is to prevent British goods from entering the EU through the “back door” unchecked.

This means some sensitive goods crossing the Irish Sea from the UK – like meat and eggs – will be checked under EU rules.

A lorry goes through security at Larne Port in Co Antrim


AFP via Getty Images)

How does Boris Johnson plan to change the Northern Ireland Protocol?

A new system will create a “red channel” with full EU controls and a “green channel” with minimal controls.

When traders move goods from the UK to NI, goods that remain in Northern Ireland go in the Green Channel and goods that go on to the Republic go in the Red Channel.

For goods in the Green Channel, EU controls and rules are effectively suspended and companies don’t even have to fill out customs declarations.

Instead, there will be data sharing with the EU via a Trusted Trader Scheme to reassure Brussels that the rules are being followed, with harsh penalties for smugglers.

This means that the standard ‘manifesto’ for your shipment of goods is sent to HMRC, who can then share the information with the EU.

Businesses can choose to follow UK or EU regulations when labeling goods sold in NI.

Supporters say the Green Channel will prevent supermarket trucks from having to carry dozens of different certificates for their products in every load, some of which are signed by veterinarians.

The Mirror understands the bill will be similar to a Command Paper published earlier this year, albeit with a few changes.

Officials had not ruled out a continued role for the European Court of Justice, but there are reports Boris Johnson took a tougher line against the court at the last minute after lobbying from Tory MPs.

Protesters at Hillsborough Castle in Northern Ireland as Boris Johnson arrived for talks this week


(Getty Images)

Is the UK breaking international law?

It depends who you ask. Cabinet ministers like Brandon Lewis and Liz Truss say they want to improve the protocol rather than scrap it and talks with the EU are continuing. But ultimately, the UK devises a plan to overrule the protocol – which is an international legal agreement.

Ministers could not explain clearly why this conforms to international law, saying legal advice is private.

They can’t even tell if the government’s chief legal adviser backed the plans.

Tory Northern Ireland Committee leader Simon Hoare has already called for assurances that the “rule of law” will be upheld.

Mr Lewis refused to confirm whether the government’s chief legal adviser, Sir James Eadie QC, was asked if the legislation was breaking the law.

Nor would he cite whether new legislation includes plans to abolish the role of the European Court of Justice.

Housing Secretary Michael Gove and Chancellor Rishi Sunak reportedly joined forces last week to combat plans by Foreign Secretary Liz Truss to enforce a tougher version of the law.

Mr Johnson is said to have sided with the couple but then caved in the next day in front of harsh changes proposed by the hardline Tory Brexiteer European Research Group.

Boris Johnson signs his Brexit trade deal. He had sworn to solve the problem


Andrew Parsons / No. 10 Downing Street)

Why is the Northern Ireland Protocol a big deal again?

The Northern Ireland issue has been rumbling for six years since the UK voted for Brexit.

Theresa May couldn’t solve it, and Boris Johnson did, signing a deal he now accepts won’t work.

Talks with the EU have been back and forth all the time and intensified after the UK asked to overhaul the protocol last July.

The difference now is that power-sharing collapsed in February and the Northern Ireland Assembly has been deadlocked since early May.

The DUP has announced that it will block its formation until the government scraps the protocol. And the ministers claim that the whole dispute endangers the peace process.

Will there be a trade war with the EU?

The EU has pledged to react if the UK suspends parts of the Northern Ireland Protocol.

There are fears this will mean imposing tariffs on some UK exports to the EU. These exports are currently duty-free under the separate Brexit trade deal.

What matters is whether the UK responds with tariffs on EU goods arriving in the UK.

This could lead to escalation and a trade war.

Brexit Opportunities Secretary Jacob Rees-Mogg has indicated that will not happen, saying: “Tit for tat economics of this kind is the economics of the school campus.” But as tensions rise, such a self-inflicted economic move could materialize .

British sources also believe there is little to no chance the EU will compromise over the threat of this law as Brussels hasn’t moved enough so far.

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