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Tory MP fears UK risks trashing international reputation via NI Protocol Bill

Andrew Mitchell (Isabel Infantes/PA)
Andrew Mitchell (Isabel Infantes/PA)

Britain risks a trade war with the EU if it “brazenly breaks a solemn international treaty” via the Northern Ireland Protocol Bill, a senior Conservative MP has warned.

Former cabinet minister Andrew Mitchell also voiced concerns that the UK could “trash” its international reputation by approving the legislation designed to deal with issues connected to trade between Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

But Foreign Secretary Liz Truss sought to downplay his fears by arguing the Bill has a “strong legal justification” and the UK remains committed to seeking a negotiated solution.

The UK Government has argued the measures to remove checks on goods and animal and plant products travelling from Great Britain to Northern Ireland are necessary to safeguard the Good Friday Agreement and peace and stability.

The imposition of checks between Great Britain and Northern Ireland in order to keep an open border with Ireland has angered unionists.

But capitals across the EU bloc reacted with outrage to the plans to override parts of the protocol, amid concerns it breaches international law.

Brexit
Foreign Secretary Liz Truss speaking to MPs in the House of Commons (House of Commons/PA)

Ms Truss, opening the second reading debate on the Bill, said the UK continues to raise issues of concern with the EU.

She told the Commons: “We simply cannot allow this situation to drift. Northern Ireland has been without a devolved government since February due specifically to the protocol, at a time of major global economic challenges.

“Therefore, it is the duty of this Government to act now to enable a plan for restored local government to begin. It’s both legal and necessary.”

Mr Mitchell, intervening, said he has an “immense amount of sympathy” with what Ms Truss is saying.

But he added: “It does seem to me that the EU is not being particularly constructive in trying to get the solution we all want to see achieved.

“But can I say to her that many of us are extremely concerned that the Bill brazenly breaks a solemn international treaty, it trashes our international reputation, it threatens a trade war at a time when our economy is flat and it puts us at odds with our most important ally.

“Can she say anything to reassure me in my anxieties on these points?”

Ms Truss replied: “Our preference is for a negotiated solution and we have sought a negotiated solution for 18 months, but as recently as last weekend the EU have refused to change the text of the protocol.

“That is why there’s strong legal justification, as set out in our legal statement, for us taking this action because our priority as the United Kingdom Government has to be political stability within our own country.

“And whilst we put this Bill through Parliament, we will continue to seek a negotiated solution with the EU – and in fact there are provisions of the Bill to deliver it.”

Ms Truss said she would “strongly encourage” Mr Mitchell to raise this with the EU and encourage a negotiated solution.

She added: “There is a solution to be achieved, we have laid it out very clearly with our red and green lane proposal, but we need the EU to agree to change the text of the protocol.

“That is the fundamental issue that needs to be addressed.”

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