Rishi Sunak is set to delay plans to unilaterally rip up the Northern Ireland Protocol Bill as he tries to broker a deal with Brussels to fix the post-Brexit treaty.
The Prime Minister has decided not to bring the controversial Northern Ireland Protocol Bill back to the House of Lords this year, after UK-EU relations have thawed over the past few months.
A senior government official told The Sunday Times that the PM wants to “give room to the negotiations” over the Northern Ireland Protocol with the EU.
Talks between London and Brussels have been at a stalemate for more than a year, after both sides agreed that checks on goods crossing the Irish Sea had become too onerous.
The Northern Ireland Protocol BIll, which is the subject of a legal challenge by EU, would unilaterally overwrite the protocol and remove most of the checks from goods going from Great Britain to Northern Ireland.
The EU has warned it will not re-write the protocol, only adjust the way it is implemented, and said the bill is a violation of international law.
The mood music has become more positive since Sunak has become Prime Minister, with EU leaders saying there is now room for a deal on the protocol.
“We want to give negotiations the best chance. Public discussions of amendments would not be helpful at this stage,” a senior official told The Sunday Times.
“We’ll let the team try the negotiations with Brussels first. If that doesn’t work, we’ll do the bill with the Lords.”
Northern Ireland still follows the EU’s customs union and single market rules, unlike the rest of the UK, meaning there needs to be checks on goods crossing the Irish Sea.
A portion of the unionist community are angry that the protocol effectively separates Northern Ireland from the rest of the UK in order to avoid a hard border with the Republic of Ireland.
This has seen the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) refuse to sit in Northern Ireland’s regional assembly, with its leaders calling for the protocol to be scrapped entirely.