No action on NI Protocol but Government promises Brexit Bill to cut red tape

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The Government has resisted calls to legislate to “tear up” the Northern Ireland Protocol – but insists the controversial deal “needs to change”.

Instead, the Government used Tuesday’s Queen’s Speech to announce a Brexit Freedoms Bill that it claims would cut £1 billion of red tape and ensure EU law no longer has supremacy over acts of Parliament.

DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson and sections of the Conservative Party have pushed for “decisive action” on the protocol and Foreign Secretary Liz Truss reportedly prepared draft legislation to scrap large parts of the agreement after giving up on Brexit talks with the EU.

But the announcement of the Government’s programme for the next year contained no such legislation.

Documents released alongside the Queen’s Speech hinted that unilateral action remains a possibility.



We will continue to talk with the EU but we will not let that stand in the way of protecting peace and stability in Northern Ireland

Government

The Government said: “As we have seen following the elections in Northern Ireland, the problems caused by the protocol continue to stand in the way of an Executive being formed.

“In the interests of all communities of Northern Ireland, the protocol needs to change. We urge our partners in the EU to work with us, with new imagination and flexibility, to deliver that.

“We will continue to talk with the EU but we will not let that stand in the way of protecting peace and stability in Northern Ireland. As any responsible government would, we will take the steps necessary to protect all dimensions of the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement and meet our obligations under the New Decade, New Approach Deal to protect Northern Ireland’s place in the UK internal market.”

Responding to reports that the UK could tear up the protocol, a European Commission spokesperson said the EU was not looking to renegotiate the deal, but would work to find solutions within the framework of the agreement.

Commission spokesperson Daniel Ferrie said: “We are aware of the issues regarding the implementation of the Protocol in Northern Ireland. We have bent over backwards to find flexible solutions from day one.”

He added: “We are willing to continue working on that with the UK to find joint solutions so that we can address these issues once and for all.”

The Brexit Freedoms Bill is intended to allow the Government to amend EU law carried over after Brexit to be amended or repealed more easily without taking “decades of parliamentary time”.

The Bill would assert the supremacy of acts of Parliament over retained EU law “to reflect the fact that much of it became law without going through full democratic scrutiny in the UK Parliament”, while allowing more of it to be amended without primary legislation.



All too often, bonfires of so-called ‘red tape’ end up incinerating vital green rules to protect wildlife and its habitats from concrete and bulldozers. This move would benefit the regressive bit of the construction lobby and a handful of firms profiting from grubby trade deals, but it’s not what the vast majority of people want or voted for

Rebecca Newsom, Greenpeace

The Government said it would cut £1 billion of “burdensome EU red tape for businesses” and enable the UK to become “the best regulated economy in the world”.

But some campaign groups fear this could lead to a “levelling down” of regulation, with Greenpeace warning it could lead to environmental protections being watered down.

Greenpeace UK’s head of politics, Rebecca Newsom, said: “All too often, bonfires of so-called ‘red tape’ end up incinerating vital green rules to protect wildlife and its habitats from concrete and bulldozers.

“This move would benefit the regressive bit of the construction lobby and a handful of firms profiting from grubby trade deals, but it’s not what the vast majority of people want or voted for.”

Other benefits of Brexit referred to in the new legislative programme include a new data protection regime, new regulation for financial services, changes to public procurement rules and a new approach to environmental assessment in planning laws.

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