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MPs to probe Northern Ireland Protocol

10 September 2020

  • Northern Ireland Affairs Committee launches new inquiry.
  • NI Protocol and its potential effects on wide-ranging aspects of life in NI to be examined.
  • Secretary of State to give oral evidence next week.
  • This comes the day following the publication of the Government’s Internal Market Bill that may affect the delivery of the promises of the Protocol.

The Northern Ireland Affairs Committee has launched a wide-ranging inquiry that will examine the Northern Ireland Protocol and all its implications on public services, trade, the economy and citizens’ rights in Northern Ireland.

Following the publication of the Government’s Internal Market Bill yesterday, the operation and implementation of the NI Protocol has come into sharp relief. The Bill, designed to ensure trade within the UK can move freely and without charge, contains powers relating to internal UK trade that conflict with the Withdrawal Agreement and the Northern Ireland Protocol.

This is a likely subject for discussion when the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Brandon Lewis, gives oral evidence to the Committee at 09.30AM on Wednesday 16 September in the first session of the inquiry.

Under the Protocol a number of EU laws will continue to apply to Northern Ireland following the end of the transition period on 31 December. It was agreed between the UK Government and the EU to avoid a border on the island of Ireland while also recognising that trade between Northern Ireland and Great Britain should remain as frictionless as possible.

The inquiry will anticipate and react to developments in the UK-EU trade negotiations, UK politics, and in the implementation of the Protocol. The Committee is calling for any evidence on ways in which the NI Protocol will influence life in Northern Ireland.

Chair's comments

Simon Hoare, Chairman of the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee said:

"The Northern Ireland Protocol will be a significant change for all walks of life in Northern Ireland. It could change operation of cross-border public services, trade within the UK, trade with the Republic of Ireland and citizen’s rights.

The Internal Market Bill published yesterday interacts with the Protocol and we need to examine what outcomes will come of it. Negotiations between the UK and EU on the precise form of some aspects within the NI Protocol are ongoing. We will be asking the Secretary of State about these matters at our first hearing on Wednesday. I know the Committee will be keen to establish how the Protocol now apparently undermines the Good Friday Agreement when two months ago it did no such thing.

With events moving so rapidly and crunch time on negotiations fast approaching it’s an absolute necessity that we have a rolling and flexible inquiry into the implications of the Protocol; deal or no deal. Our inquiry will examine the Government’s and businesses’ preparedness for the Protocol coming into effect and will keep pace with developments to offer timely interventions and information on any aspect of the Protocol for the people of Northern Ireland facing the effects of its implementation.

Terms of reference

Send us your views

The Northern Ireland Affairs Committee would welcome the submission of written evidence that addresses: 

  • the preparedness of government, public services and businesses for the Protocol taking effect on 1 January 2021;
  • the implications of the Protocol for intra-UK Government and public service co-operation, and for intra-UK trade;
  • the implications of the Protocol for intergovernmental and public service co-operation between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, and for trade between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland;
  • the implications of the Protocol for citizens’ rights and access to public services on the island of Ireland;
  • the implications of the Protocol for the Northern Ireland economy and for investment in Northern Ireland;
  • the implications of the Protocol for devolution, including:
    • Northern Ireland’s position in the UK internal market;
    • Northern Ireland’s ability to benefit from the UK’s post-Brexit trade policy; and
    • how the Protocol interacts with the UK’s new system of common policy frameworks;
  • the implications of new legislation on the operation of the Protocol;
  • the interaction between the Protocol and the future relationship between the UK and the EU;
  • how the Protocol can be implemented effectively, including in a scenario where no UK-EU future relationship is agreed;
  • potential mechanisms to facilitate parliamentary scrutiny of the operation of the Protocol, including:
    • scrutiny of any new UK or EU laws that would create divergence between Northern Ireland and other parts of the UK after the end of the transition period; and
    • scrutiny of the UK-EU Withdrawal Agreement Joint Committee and its specialised committees.

Further information

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