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Tory rebellion warning if Northern Ireland Protocol legislation falls short

Conservative MP Sir Bernard Jenkin has said if the Government does not bring forward a Bill which holds out the serious prospect of the restoration of powersharing in Northern Ireland he will vote against it (Jessica Taylor/UK Parliament/PA)
Conservative MP Sir Bernard Jenkin has said if the Government does not bring forward a Bill which holds out the serious prospect of the restoration of powersharing in Northern Ireland he will vote against it (Jessica Taylor/UK Parliament/PA)

Boris Johnson has been warned he risks a Tory rebellion if new legislation fails to offer the “serious prospect” of restoring Stormont powersharing and the Good Friday Agreement.

Conservative MP Sir Bernard Jenkin said he would vote against the measures should they fail to satisfy the criteria.

The DUP has long opposed the Northern Ireland Protocol and is refusing to enter the powersharing institutions until issues with the post-Brexit settlement for the region are addressed.

The Government has pledged to table legislation that would override parts of the protocol, which governs trade Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and the details are expected to emerge soon.

Sir Bernard, MP for Harwich and North Essex, told the House of Commons: “I voted for the Withdrawal Agreement and the protocol against my better judgment. And so it has proved.

“If the Government does not bring forward a Bill which holds out the serious prospect of the restoration of powersharing in Northern Ireland and the restoration of the Good Friday Agreement, I will vote against it.

“Will he undertake to make sure that his honourable and right honourable friends understand that those who vote against such a Bill are voting to wreck the Good Friday Agreement?”

Foreign Office minister James Cleverly replied: “My colleagues on the Treasury benches will have heard the point he made.”

He went on to reiterate that the Government is confident its position is legal.

Mr Cleverly also told the Commons: “The Government is confident that our actions are lawful under international law and in line with longstanding convention that we do not set out internal legal deliberations.”

The minister failed to clarify which tribunal or court will be adjudicating whether the protocol legislation is within international law.

Labour former minister Chris Bryant said: “The thing is, this is all so predictable, wasn’t it? And, in fact, predicted by many people of different views about Brexit incidentally in the House.

“I am sure the minister will be absolutely furious when he discovers who actually signed the Northern Ireland Protocol.

“But can he tell us, will the Bill be published before the summer recess, and once it’s published and if there is a legal contest, which tribunal or court will be adjudicating on whether or not it is within international law?”

Mr Cleverly replied: “This would be a British Bill put forward by Her Majesty’s Government.

“As I say, the Government’s position is that our course of action is lawful under international law.”

DUP MP Ian Paisley (North Antrim) said: “The UK’s proposals to remove the friction of trade between GB and Northern Ireland and Northern Ireland and GB are in keeping with international trade law.

“It is the EU, under the terms of the 2014 trade facility agreement, that is in breach of its international obligation to reduce trade friction between co-signees, of which the EU and the UK are co-signees.”

He added: “The protocol is the worst example of a government or governments of Europe trying to use red tape to destroy commerce in the United Kingdom.”