New UK legislation to unilaterally change the post-Brexit Northern Ireland Protocol will not break international law, Northern Ireland secretary Brandon Lewis has insisted.
Lewis said the government’s plans, which will be brought forward to parliament tomorrow, are “lawful and correct”, despite comments from EU leaders saying any unilateral change to the protocol will break international law.
Foreign secretary Liz Truss will bring forward legislation tomorrow to change the protocol by creating create a dual track system, which only allows checks only on goods that will be sold on to the EU after they have reached Northern Ireland.
Sinn Fein President Mary Lou McDonald said any unilateral change to the protocol would cause “huge, huge damage” to the Northern Ireland economy, while Irish foreign minister Simon Coveney told the Irish Independent that the UK “isn’t listening to anybody except themselves”.
Lewis said the government would outline the “legal basis” for the law when it is introduced to parliament tomorrow, while also saying that Brussels had been “disingenuous” over its concerns.
“The legislation is within the law – what we’re going to do is lawful and it is correct,” he told Sky News.
“When people see the legislation tomorrow they will see that this is working within the law.
“The government lawyers are very clear – we are working within the law.”
Negotiations between London and Brussels over the protocol have been deadlocked for months, after both sides last year agreed there needed to be changes to reduce the number of checks on goods crossing the Irish Sea.
Northern Ireland still follows the EU’s customs union and single market rules, unlike the rest of the UK, in order to avoid a hard border with the Republic of Ireland.
Post-Brexit checks on goods going from Great Britain to Northern Ireland, enforced to protect the EU’s single market, have created economic and political disruption.
Labour shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves said that “It does look like the government plans to break international law”.
“We want the Northern Ireland Protocol to work but we know to get it to work we have to negotiate and work with our European partners,” she said.