Northern Ireland protocol legislation back in Westminster for further committee stage debate

The Northern Ireland protocol legislation is back before Westminster

Northern Ireland's MPs will get some shelter from the blistering London heat in the cool House of Commons chamber this afternoon.

While others at Westminster are consumed by the Conservative Party leadership contest, the DUP, SDLP and Alliance MPs will be on the benches for day two of the committee stage of the Protocol Bill.

It's the point in the legislative process when MPs can try to amend the bill put forward by Foreign Secretary Liz Truss.

The bill will allow the government to unilaterally override parts of the Northern Ireland Protocol which has been agreed with the EU.

Unionists and some businesses say it's not working because it creates a trade border down the Irish Sea. While the EU says it is willing to discuss its proposed solutions to the outstanding problems, it has been firm that it won't renegotiate the terms of the protocol.

Day One of the committee stage took place last week and no significant amendments supported by the SDLP or Alliance MPs were adopted.

The DUP doesn't want the bill changed and has said the legislation needs to leave the House of Commons "intact" before it moves to the next stage in the House of Lords and before the party considers a return to Stormont.

The DUP Leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson told MPs in Parliament last week that "if this bill becomes law, we believe that provides the basis for restoring the political institutions in Northern Ireland, including the Executive and I have already committed to leave this place and to return to Stormont as the deputy first minister as part of that Executive. Therefore I have a personal commitment to the restoration of the institutions."

There will be another day of debate on amendments tomorrow which will complete this part of the legislative process for the Protocol Bill. Westminster then rises for summer recess on Thursday, so it will be September before the bill begins its process through the House of Lords. It will then return to the House of Commons for more scrutiny before it completes the legislative journey late in the year.

There's no sign that the DUP is prepared to make a move to begin the process of getting Stormont back up and running by electing a Speaker when the bill clears the committee stage this week. Sir Jeffrey Donaldson has made clear the legislation needs to be "enacted" for the DUP to return to the Executive and assembly.