Liz Truss says 'we need to restore balance' as she sets out plans to scrap parts of Northern Ireland Protocol

Ms Truss was speaking in the House of Commons as the Protocol row continues

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Liz Truss says "we need to restore the balance" as she sets out plans to scrap parts of the Northern Ireland Protocol.

Speaking in the House of Commons, the Foreign Secretary set out her intention to bring forward legislation within weeks to scrap parts of the post-Brexit deal on Northern Ireland.

Ms Truss said the Good Friday Agreement is “under strain”, adding: “Regrettably, the Northern Ireland Executive has not been fully functioning since early February.

“This is because the Northern Ireland Protocol does not have the support necessary in one part of the community in Northern Ireland.

Liz Truss speaking in the House of Commons
Liz Truss speaking in the House of Commons

"I would also note that all of Northern Ireland’s political parties agree on the need for changes to the Protocol.”

She added that the practical problems include producers facing “onerous” restrictions due to sanitary and phytosanitary restrictions, adding: “These practical problems have contributed to the sense that the east-west relationship has been undermined.

“Without resolving these and other issues we will not be able to re-establish the executive and preserve the hard-won progress sustained by the Belfast-Good Friday Agreement.

"We need to restore the balance in the agreement.”

Ms Truss said the UK’s preference is to “reach a negotiated outcome” with the EU.

She continued: “Our proposed solution would meet both our and the EU’s original objectives for the Protocol.

“It would address the frictions in east-west trade while protecting the EU’s single market and the Belfast Good Friday Agreement.

“The challenge is that this solution requires a change in the Protocol itself as its current drafting prevents it from being implemented.

Ms Truss said the Good Friday Agreement is “under strain"
Ms Truss said the Good Friday Agreement is “under strain"
The EU's Maros Sefcovic is leading negotiations from the Brussels side
The EU's Maros Sefcovic is leading negotiations from the Brussels side

“But the EU’s mandate does not allow the Protocol to be changed. That is why their current proposals are not able to address the fundamental concerns.

“In fact, it’s our assessment that they would go backward from the situation we have today with the standstill.”

Ms Truss insisted the proposed bill is "consistent with our obligations in international law".

She added: “To respond to the very grave and serious situation in Northern Ireland, we are clear there is a necessity to act to ensure the institutions can be restored as soon as possible.

“The Government is clear that proceeding with the bill is consistent with our obligations in international law and in support of our prior obligations in the Belfast Good Friday Agreement.

“Before any changes are made, we will consult businesses and people in Northern Ireland.”

Labour says future UK trade deals could be damaged by any threats to interfere with Northern Ireland
Labour says future UK trade deals could be damaged by any threats to interfere with Northern Ireland

Ms Truss confirmed that the new bill is not "about scrapping the Protocol".

She added: “Our aim is to deliver on the Protocol’s objectives.

“We will cement those provisions which are working in the Protocol, including the common travel area, the single electricity market and north-south co-operation, whilst fixing those elements that aren’t, on the movement of goods, goods regulation, VAT, subsidy control, and governance.”

But Labour has warned that future UK trade deals could be damaged by any threats to interfere with Northern Ireland’s post-Brexit trade arrangements.

Shadow Foreign Office minister Stephen Doughty said: “Britain should be a country that keeps its word.

“The rest of the world is looking at us and wondering if we are a country that they want to do business with.

“When we seek to negotiate new deals abroad, does the Government want to make other countries question whether we will keep our end of the bargain?

“There are wide-ranging and damaging repercussions undermining our ability to hold others to account for their own commitments, when we should, for example, be pulling together in support of Ukraine, not fuelling divisions with our European allies.”

Prime Minister Boris Johnson met with Stormont parties yesterday
Prime Minister Boris Johnson met with Stormont parties yesterday
Protestors in Northern Ireland as Mr Johnson visited Northern Ireland
Protestors in Northern Ireland as Mr Johnson visited Northern Ireland

The Foreign Secretary's comments come just a day after Prime Minister Boris Johnson took part in meetings with the Stormont parties yesterday in a bid to restore the power-sharing Government in Northern Ireland.

But leaders of the parties were left disappointed with the outcome of the talks, before sending a warning about any potential changes to the Protocol.

The Alliance Party described their meeting with Mr Johnson as “robust and very frustrating”.

Deputy leader Stephen Farry said: “We were giving him a very clear warning that if he plays fast and loose with the protocol and indeed the Good Friday Agreement, then he is going to be adding more and more instability to Northern Ireland.

“On the one hand, he is coming here with a certain set of stated outcomes, but all his actions belie what he is notionally trying to achieve.”

Speaking after his party’s meeting, Ulster Unionist leader Doug Beattie said: “If the UK Government takes steps tomorrow or this week to fix some of the issues that we see with the Protocol, it is important that we then nominate a speaker and we get back to government and start doing the work.

“And if we do not get back into government, then we need to identify who is blocking it and we need to bypass them.”

Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP) leader Colum Eastwood had a similarly strong warning.

“If the British Government tomorrow signal their intent to break international law by legislating to rip up the protocol at Westminster, he (Mr Johnson) will not have the support of the vast majority of people in Northern Ireland,” he said.