Legislation allowing Britain to repeal some of its own rules Post-Brexit trade with Northern Ireland On Monday it passed the first of many parliamentary tests, as Prime Minister Boris Johnson pressed plans that angered the European Union.
Despite some heavy criticism, lawmakers voted 295 to 221 in favor of the Northern Ireland Protocol bill, which would unilaterally eliminate part of the UK-EU divorce agreement agreed in 2020. The law now moves to line scrutiny.
Tensions with the European Union have been rising for months after Britain accused Brussels of insisting on a strict approach to the movement of goods between Britain and Northern Ireland – checks necessary to keep the border open with EU member Ireland.
Johnson has called the changes he is seeking “relatively trivial” and ministers insist the move does not violate international law, but the European Union has launched legal proceedings against Britain over its plans.
“While the negotiating outcome remains our preference – the EU must accept changes to the protocol itself,” Secretary of State Liz Truss said on Twitter after the vote.
Asked if changes under the new law could be implemented this year, Johnson told broadcasters: “Yes, I think we can do that very quickly, as Parliament wishes.”
Johnson’s predecessor, Theresa May, was one of many members of the Conservative Party who are critical of their leader.
“This law, in my view, is not legal under international law, it will not achieve its goals, it will lower the UK’s standing in the eyes of the world, and I cannot support it,” she said.
Ahead of the vote, Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney said the bill would not lead to a sustainable solution and would only increase uncertainty in Northern Ireland.
“I am deeply disappointed that the British government continues to pursue its illegal unilateral approach to the Northern Ireland Protocol,” he said in a statement.
Johnson has a majority to pass the law through the House of Commons, although the vocal group of rebels will heighten concerns about his power after remaining in a confidence vote on June 6 and the embarrassing loss of two Parliament seats on Friday.
The bill will face an even greater challenge when it eventually moves to the unelected House of Lords, where the government does not have a majority and many peers have expressed concern about it. (Reporting by William Schomberg, Kylie McClellan and William James in London and Padrick Halpin in Dublin; Reporting by Elizabeth Piper and Alistair Smoot; Editing by Alistair Bell, Gareth Jones and Grant McCall)