Northern Ireland parties aim to amend Internal Market Bill

The Internal Market Bill would get rid of the requirement for new customs arrangements in Northern Ireland. Credit: PA

First Minister Arlene Foster has accused the EU of treating Northern Ireland like its "plaything".

The DUP leader was speaking in the Assembly on Monday, ahead of a debate at Westminster on the Government's new Brexit bill.

Ms Foster claimed Northern Ireland has become a "bargaining chip" in trade talks between the bloc and the UK Government.

"We are not the plaything of the European Union and it causes great difficulties here in Northern Ireland when people use Northern Ireland in that fashion," she said.

NI parties that sit in the House of Commons are set to table amendments to the Internal Market Bill, which is intended to eliminate the legal force of the Withdrawal Agreement in areas including state aid and Northern Ireland customs.The move would get rid of the requirement for new customs arrangements in Northern Ireland.

SDLP and Alliance are expected to support amendments to try and block the bill from proceeding through Parliament.

Meanwhile, the DUP will attempt to amend the Internal Market Bill to ensure the UK sets the rules on state aid in Northern Ireland.

The Irish Government has dismissed reports that the EU could block goods entering Northern Ireland from the rest of the UK. Credit: PA

The Northern Ireland Protocol sets out that EU state aid rules will apply to commerce.

State aid means a government cannot subsidise a product to allow it to be sold more cheaply in other parts of the EU to the potential detriment of businesses there.

The Irish Government, however, has dismissed reports that the EU could block goods entering Northern Ireland from the rest of the UK.

Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney said there may be “limited checks” on goods coming from Great Britain into the region because there is an agreement to prevent the need for physical infrastructure on the Irish border.

The measures were envisaged to stop goods passing from England, Scotland or Wales into the Republic of Ireland via Northern Ireland tariff-free if no wider agreement is struck between the EU and UK.

Geoffrey Cox warned he would not back the bill unless ministers dispel the impression they plan to rewrite an international agreement. Credit: PA

Boris Johnson's former attorney general, Geoffrey Cox, said it would be "unconscionable" to override the Brexit divorce deal, as the Tory rebellion against the controversial legislation grew. Instead, Mr Cox urged ministers to use the "clear and lawful" options under the agreement to remedy their concerns that food imports may be blocked from Britain to Northern Ireland.