Skip to main content

Northern Ireland Protocol

Volume 724: debated on Wednesday 14 December 2022

3. What recent discussions he has had with representatives of political parties in Northern Ireland on the progress of negotiations on the Northern Ireland protocol. (902744)

I have regular discussions with Northern Ireland political leaders on Northern Ireland matters, including the protocol. The Government are engaging in constructive dialogue with the European Union to find solutions to the problems that the protocol is causing. We are also proceeding with legislation that aims to fix these problems in the event that we cannot reach a negotiated solution.

The Northern Ireland Protocol Bill takes a wrecking ball to the deal that the Conservatives negotiated, signed and campaigned on. It breaks international law and risks new trade barriers in the middle of a cost of living crisis. Political parties in Northern Ireland have been left in limbo—they have been left out in the cold—by this Government. Given that it was a previous Conservative Prime Minister who negotiated the protocol, why has the current Prime Minister not even visited Northern Ireland yet to see how it is working, and how he will sort out this self-created Government mess?

As I have said, I meet regularly with the Northern Ireland parties. One issue that always comes up is the Northern Ireland protocol. I believe that it was negotiated in very good faith between the two parties. However, its practical application is demonstrating on a daily basis to the people in Northern Ireland that it is not working. It is not fully implemented by a long way yet, which is why the Government are in talks with the European Union and have their protocol Bill running at the same time.

Can the Secretary of State update us on those talks with the European Union? Are they still at the stage of discussing technical details, or are they actually discussing more substantial issues?

The one thing that I am quite confident that I will not do is give a running commentary on the state of the negotiations or talks between the European Union and the UK Government. My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary did update the House a bit yesterday, but I think that he maintains that position as well.

It is good news that the Prime Minister has paused the Northern Ireland Protocol Bill. Can the Secretary of State confirm that negotiations are on track to deliver an agreement that all communities can support by 19 January?

As the hon. Gentleman knows, I am a “glass half full” man, and I truly believe that a landing zone has been identified by all parties to aim for. Can I confirm a date? No. Can I give a running commentary? I am afraid that I cannot do so.

The intended purpose of the Retained EU Law (Revocation and Reform) Bill is divergence from the single market. To avoid repeating the political fallout over the Northern Ireland Protocol Bill, the Government should be engaging with all communities in Northern Ireland right now, based on a detailed impact assessment. Is that happening?