Posted on Jun 28, 2022
The British government's plans to override parts of the Brexit deal relating to Northern Ireland have passed their first hurdle in Parliament, the BBC reports.
By 295 votes to 221, MPs gave initial approval to a controversial bill allowing ministers to scrap parts of the Northern Ireland Protocol.
It comes despite warnings, including from former PM Theresa May, that it breaches international law.
The move also risks fresh tensions with the EU, which has taken legal action.
But Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said there was no other option to "fix" problems the deal has created.
The bill would allow ministers to change the part of 2019 deal that introduced post-Brexit checks on goods sent from Great Britain to Northern Ireland.
Those were designed to avoid checks at the UK's border with the Republic of Ireland, but they are highly unpopular among unionists in Northern Ireland.
The bill began its journey through Parliament on Monday, with MPs voting to give it initial approval and allowing it to progress for further scrutiny.
The government won the vote with a majority of 74, with Northern Ireland's Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) MPs supporting the bill.
Voting lists showed no Conservative MPs voted against the bill. However during the debate, some joined opposition MPs in warning that the legislation breaches international law.
Ms Truss argued the bill was justified because the EU had not shown enough "flexibility" during negotiations change the relevant part of the 2019 deal, known as the Northern Ireland Protocol.
She told MPs that ministers expected the passing of the bill to lead to the resumption of power-sharing in Northern Ireland, which has been put on hold since May's assembly elections.
Nationalist party Sinn Féin won the most seats in May's elections, but the DUP, which came second, is refusing to re-enter a power-sharing executive until its concerns about the protocol are addressed.
Speaking to reporters earlier, DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson said the party would "consider what steps we can take" in terms of returning, if the bill gets through all its Commons stages intact.
Speaking in favour of the bill during the Commons debate, he said the protocol had had a "devastating impact" on Northern Ireland.
Ms Truss added that the bill was justified by the "worsening situation" in Northern Ireland, and the UK had been left with "no other choice" because the EU had ruled out changes to the text of the 2019 agreement the UK had signed.
She added that the move was legal because changes to the protocol were required to preserve Northern Ireland's 1998 Belfast/Good Friday peace agreement.
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