Last reviewed 17 May 2022

Speaking in Parliament, Foreign Secretary Liz Truss has said that the Government plans to introduce a Bill which “will put in place the necessary measures to lessen the burden” on trade with the rest of the UK.

This will give the Government the option of making unilateral changes to the Northern Ireland Protocol, although Ms Truss insisted that the UK’s preference is to reach a negotiated outcome with the EU.

“The UK has proposed what we believe to be a comprehensive and reasonable solution to deliver on the objectives of the Protocol,” the Foreign Secretary said. “This includes a trusted trader scheme to provide the EU with real time commercial data, giving them confidence that goods intended for Northern Ireland are not entering the EU Single Market.”

The Bill will, she insisted, address issues related to governance, bringing the Protocol in line with international norms.

The challenge, the Foreign Secretary went on, is that this solution requires a change in the Protocol itself, as its current drafting prevents it from being implemented, but the EU’s mandate does not allow the Protocol to be changed.

Before any changes are made, the Government will consult businesses and people in Northern Ireland as the proposals are put forward. Ms Truss will also hold urgent talks with European Commission Vice-President Maroš Šefčovič.

“The Bill will contain an explicit power to give effect to a new, revised Protocol if we can reach an accommodation that meets our goal of protecting the Belfast Good Friday Agreement,” she concluded. “We remain open to a negotiated solution, but the urgency of the situation means we can’t afford to delay any longer.”

Reacting to the statement, CBI Northern Ireland Director, Angela McGowan, said: “Firms are already reeling from the rising cost of doing business. The last thing they want is further uncertainty in trading arrangements amid global supply chain challenges. Now more than ever, flexibility and compromise are needed from both sides to reach lasting trade solutions, securing peace and prosperity.”