Q. What are ministers proposing?
. The reported move would get rid of the requirement for new customs arrangements in Northern Ireland.
It has been reported that the Internal Market Bill would end the legal legitimacy of the Withdrawal Agreement in areas such as NI customs and state aid and financial assistance. At present Northern Ireland is supposed to adhere to some EU regulations after the Brexit transition period ends on December 31 in a bid to stop a “hard border” on the island of Ireland.
Q. Why is the UK taking this stance?
A. The Government has indicated it is a necessary move in case trade talks fail.
Q. Hasn’t Brexit already happened?
A. The UK has formally left the EU, but adheres to the bloc’s trade rules and regulations until the end of the year. A trade agreement was intended to be worked, but the process has been slow and acrimonious, particularly regarding issues such as fishing rights. Both sides have said a deal would need to be done by mid-October in order for it to be ratified in time.
Q. How has the EU reacted to the Government’s move?
A. Not well. Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney has branded the UK course of action “unwise”. And EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier said he will be seeking clarification of the UK’s plans.
Q. How is the UK Government presenting the situation?
A. It is playing it down. Environment Secretary George Eustice insisted the measures are intended to tie up “loose ends” and not meant to rip up the agreement with the EU.
He told the BBC: “What we are talking about here is what type of administrative customs processes you might have for goods that might be at risk of entering the EU single market – going from GB to Northern Ireland. These are important but minor technical details.”
Q. What does the opposition say?
A. Labour has accused Prime Minister Boris Johnson of misleading people.
Shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth told the BBC: “Boris Johnson, I thought, told us he had an oven-ready deal. And, he fought a general election telling us he had an oven-ready deal; now suggests that he was misleading people in that general election.”
Q. What is likely to happen next?
A. The eight rounds of talks between Britain and the EU begin today, and the Government is expected to outline its proposed new legislation tomorrow.