- Boris Johnson to “float” plans for scrapping the Northern Ireland protocol in a speech, sources say.
- It comes after Suella Braverman, the UK’s attorney general, gave ‘UKIM 2’ her legal backing.
- The legislation will “disapply various elements” of the original agreement, including GB-NI border checks.
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson is planning to use a speech next week to “float” the UK’s plans to rip up the Northern Ireland protocol, after receiving the backing of the UK’s attorney general.
The prime minister is expected to give the broad outline of the controversial new step — which is likely to face resistance by some of his own MPs as well as the Lords — as early as Monday. That will be followed on Tuesday by a statement to the House of Commons from Foreign Secretary Liz Truss, several sources familiar with the situation said.
All sources were granted anonymity to speak frankly.
One Number 10 figure said the speech would be “big PM stuff,” which would include reference to proposed changes to the protocol, which was part of the UK’s Brexit Withdrawal Agreement with the EU.
Truss is expected to address the 1922 committee of Tory backbenchers after her Commons appearance.
The new legislation will “disapply various elements” of the deal Johnson struck back in 2019, including removing the need for border checks between Britain and Northern Ireland and end the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice (ECJ), one Conservative MP said.
The senior backbencher, who has been briefed with some of the details of the new bill, told Insider it would “allay concerns the EU may have” about the consequences of ditching the protocol on the Single Market, which he claimed would be “not affected”. “By the new legislation.
But there will be “no impediment to trade” between Britain and Northern Ireland – the cause of much anger from unionists on both sides of the Irish Sea, he added.
The bill carries the working title “UK Internal Markets (2),” according to another Conservative source – a reference to an earlier piece of legislation that was passed despite a sizeable Tory rebellion.
Others told Insider they had also been privy to the contents of this controversial new legislation, but declined to comment further, owing to its sensitive nature.
There was no mention of such a bill in this week’s Queen’s Speech, although one well-placed source previously told Insider he had been told to “expect something to follow soon after that.”
Downing Street and the FCDO are bracing themselves for a minor rebellion on the Tory seats, although potential Cabinet refuseniks such as Michael Gove have been “squared away.” The leveling-up secretary said Wednesday morning he felt “super cool” about Truss’ reported plans.
Another backbencher said he expected the bill to be made a confidence matter, meaning Conservative rebels could be suspended from the party.
Suella Braverman, the attorney general who sources said has given the bill her legal approval, recently told Johnson to suspend “disloyal” MPs.
That would potentially reduce the number of letters being submitted against Johnson’s leadership if rebels, some of whom are Remain-backing moderates, stick to their guns.
Theresa May, the former prime minister, signaled that she would resist such a measure during a Commons debate Tuesday.
May told ministers they should consider the “wider sense of what such a move would say about the United Kingdom and its willingness to abide by treaties which it has signed”.
Other MPs have told Insider they could not back what one described as “unilateral UKIM on acid”.
The Lords, where the Tories do not command a majority, could pose a bigger problem. Two sources suggested the Parliaments Act could be dusted off to “ram it through,” because “the Lords will hate it.”
It comes as Conor Burns, the Northern Ireland minister, traveled to Boston to meet the Irish community, as well as visiting Joe Biden’s team in Washington, DC, as he attempts to roll the pitch stateside.
Burns told the BBC that “we want our friends and allies in the United States to understand the context of the challenges the protocol is throwing up.”
Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis, whose department is acting as a junior partner on the bill, has also been on outreach trips this year.
A Number 10 spokesperson said there was “no speech on protocol planned,” adding: “No decisions [have] been made on this one.”