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Bill to override NI Protocol would alter dynamics of EU talks, says barrister

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Critics claim any such Bill would breach the UK’s international obligations and once again lead to arguments over a hard land border on the island

Critics claim any such Bill would breach the UK’s international obligations and once again lead to arguments over a hard land border on the island

Critics claim any such Bill would breach the UK’s international obligations and once again lead to arguments over a hard land border on the island

Legislation shredding parts of the NI Protocol should be introduced and passed as it would strengthen the legal argument of those opposed to its provisions, according to a leading barrister.

Martin Howe, the chairman of Lawyers for Britain, which was founded to campaign for a Leave vote ahead of the Brexit referendum, said a previous legal challenge against provisions of the protocol failed because a court of appeal ruled a 2020 act “subjugated” the 1,800 articles of union between Ireland and Britain.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has signalled his support for legislation that would give government ministers wide powers to not apply certain provisions of the protocol, particularly those relating to checks on goods crossing from GB to here.

“The protocol really does not command the confidence of a large component of the population in Northern Ireland. We have to address that, we have to fix that,” Mr Johnson said.

“We think we can do it with some very simple steps.”

Critics claim any such Bill would breach the UK’s international obligations and once again lead to arguments over a hard land border on the island. Mr Howe, in a Sunday Telegraph opinion piece, argued “a foreign system of law applying within Northern Ireland...is a fundamental problem of democracy and is actually the cause of the unwanted Irish Sea border”.

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He said legal action taken by TUV leader Jim Allister and others against the protocol failed “only because the Northern Ireland Court of Appeal ruled that the articles of union have been successfully ‘subjugated’ by the 2020 Act of Parliament that gave effect in UK law to the EU Withdrawal Agreement and the protocol”.

He cited one article of the union that states “there should be no customs duties or prohibitions on goods crossing the Irish Sea in either direction”.

A Bill giving “ministers wide powers to disapply provisions of the protocol under UK law” would “impose a legal requirement on businesses who choose to export goods across the Irish land border to pay any EU customs duties that become due and to comply with EU laws about goods”.

“The EU and the Republic would impose a corresponding requirement on businesses exporting from their territory into the UK,” he added. “Publishing the Bill would change the dynamics of negotiating with the EU. At present, the EU can simply reject any changes to the protocol knowing that it is embedded into UK law and ministers do not have the power to change it,” Mr Howe said.

“The EU must be brought to recognise that no sovereign and independent state can possibly tolerate for more than a short time a part of its territory being subject to foreign courts and foreign laws. The EU would understand that once the Bill became law, they would lose the power to continue to impose the protocol.”

Demonstrations against the protocol continued over the weekend, including on the Bloomfield Road in east Belfast, addressed by the head of the Orange Order, Rev Mervyn Gibson.

He raised historic examples where “apathy” was not an option for unionists, including the UVF smuggling of a large amount of guns and ammunition in 1914.

His remarks attracted criticism, with North Down Alliance MP Stephen Farry arguing there was “no place for guns and gunrunning” in politics and society.

“Nods and winks to past examples are not acceptable,” Mr Farry tweeted.


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