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What does the new NI Protocol Bill mean for my business?

Northern Ireland Protocol Bill:

  • On Monday evening Foreign Secretary Liz Truss MP introduced legislation to fix parts of the Northern Ireland Protocol – making the “changes necessary to restore and ensure the delicate balance of the Good Friday Agreement is protected”.
  • The Bill will allow the Government to address the 4 key areas of the Protocol. These include, custom processes, regulation, tax and spending, and democratic governance.
  • Solutions to the four key areas include:
    • Green and red channels to remove unnecessary costs and paperwork for businesses trading within the UK, while ensuring full checks are done for goods entering the EU.
    • Businesses will have the choice of placing goods on the market in Northern Ireland according to either UK or EU goods rules.
    • Ensure Northern Ireland can benefit from the same tax breaks and spending policies as the rest of the UK.
    • Normalisation of governance arrangements so that disputes are resolved by independent arbitration and not by the European Court of Justice.
  • The Bill follows 18 months of negotiations between the Government and the EU which has resulted in no outcome.

Political Reaction:

  • EU Commission Vice President, Maroš Šefčovič said that renegotiating the Protocol is unrealistic and warned that the Commission will consider unfreezing legal action launched in 2021 and the exploration of new legal options.
  • Taoiseach Micheál Martin TD responded to the Bill by explaining that a “unilateral breach of the Protocol is very serious” and that it represented a new low point.
  • Before the publication of the Bill a majority of MLAs wrote to the Prime Minister outlining their opposition.

Next Steps:

  • The second reading of the Northern Ireland Protocol Bill will take place in due course.
  • It has been suggested that the DUP may support the nomination of a Speaker and the restoration of the Assembly if the Bill passes its second stage today.
  • The European College of Commissioners will meet on Friday to decide whether to unfreeze previous legal action and start new legal proceedings.
  • In the coming weeks the European Commission will publish a “model for the flexible implementation of the protocol based on durable solutions”.