UTV Political Editor Tracey Magee reports from Westminster and is joined by the DUP's Gavin Robinson and Sinn Fein's Chris Hazzard
Legislation to effectively tear up parts of the Northern Ireland Protocol has cleared its first Commons hurdle – but what happens next?
MPs voted 295 to 221 - a majority of 74 - to give the Northern Ireland Protocol Bill a second reading, which clears the way for it to undergo detailed scrutiny in the coming weeks.
No Conservative MPs voted against the bill, but voting lists showed that dozens of Tories abstained.
Former Prime Minister Theresa May made clear she would not support the legislation as she warned it would "diminish" the UK's global standing ,and delivered a withering assessment of its legality and impact.
But what are the next steps towards the Bill becoming law?
“It moves to the next stage - the committee stage - we don't know when that will be, but what we do know is that the Government does seem to be intent to push this legislation through the House of Commons before summer recess,” UTV News political editor Tracey Magee has explained.
“The Government has set aside three days in the House of Parliament for what is known as a whole of committee reading.
“Normally these committee stages can take weeks, but obviously the Government has decided it is going to push - and push hard - to get this legislation through.
“We don’t know when the committee stage will be, but we’re expecting it in the next few weeks.”
If the Bill passes, it could pave the way for the return of the Stormont Assembly.
Boris Johnson 'optimistic'
The UK leader's government has said the measures to remove checks on goods and animal and plant products travelling from Great Britain to Northern Ireland are necessary to safeguard the Good Friday Agreement and peace and stability.
“What we are trying to do is fix something that I think is very important to our country, which is the balance of the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement,” Mr Johnson told reporters at the G7 summit in Germany.
“You have got one tradition, one community, that feels that things really aren’t working in a way that they like or understand, you’ve got unnecessary barriers to trade between Great Britain and Northern Ireland.
“All we are saying is you can get rid of those whilst not in any way endangering the EU single market.”
Asked if the measures could be in place this year, Mr Johnson said: “Yes, I think we could do it very fast, Parliament willing.”
He said it would be “even better” if we could “get some of that flexibility we need in our conversations with Maros Sefcovic”, the European Commission vice-president.
The Prime Minister added: “We remain optimistic.”
What is the DUP's stance?The DUP are refusing to form an Executive until the NI Protocol is changed.
The House of Lords is also expected to contest parts of the Bill, setting up a lengthy showdown between the two Houses.
In addition, EU has also launched fresh legal action against the UK in retaliation over the Government’s move.
“I think we’ve been very clear before the Assembly election and since that we need to resolve the issues around the Protocol – this Bill is a step towards doing that,” DUP MP Gavin Robinson told UTV News.
“We want to see the return of the Executive in Northern Ireland, the people of Northern Ireland deserve to have an elected government at home with people around them locally elected, but this issue of the Protocol needs to be resolved and today we’ve seen the first big step in doing so.
“This Bill needs to pass convincingly its Commons stages, it needs to go to the House of Lords, we need to see it get third reading in the House of Commons.
“It would be absurd to have a Northern Ireland Executive reformed and an expectation that they would implement the very Protocol that is causing damage to Northern Ireland, which is impacting on trade, that is causing constitutional harm, that has at its heart a democratic deficit.
“Even in the last week or two you’ve heard the European Commission talk about challenging the grace periods – the grace periods are saving us from the very worse impacts of the Protocol that would ultimately harm businesses, consumers and everybody else.”
What has Sinn Fein said?Sinn Fein are concerned about the Bill passing Monday’s vote.
“There is a worry amongst some people here that this is the action of a rogue state, that Boris Johnson and the Tory administration are once again playing fast and loose with our political institutions, with our peace process and with an international treaty and at the end of the day the Withdrawal Agreement and the Protocol is international law,” said the party’s MP Chris Hazzard.
“What you are seeing here is an approach from the Tory administration that runs a coach and horses right through the Good Friday Agreement, right through international law and that isn’t acceptable to a hell of a lot of people.
“This threatens the economic, social and political wellbeing of the people we are voted to represent.
“What you hear from the DUP is around ditching the Protocol, but if you listen to the Tory Government, they don’t want to get rid of the Protocol, they want to work with Europe. A lot of this today is a charade and a farce.”
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