MPs will get to vote on the new Brexit deal on trading arrangements for Northern Ireland by the end of the month, a minister has suggested.
Northern Ireland Secretary Chris Heaton-Harris said the vote in parliament would likely be within the next two to three weeks.
He made the comment as he visited businesses in the region to promote the Windsor Framework, the new agreement struck by Prime Minister Rishi Sunak with the EU.
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The agreement will reduce the volume of Brexit red tape on the movement of GB goods bound for Northern Ireland.
Many businesses were burdened with paperwork after Boris Johnson’s contentious Northern Ireland Protocol.
But the Windsor Framework should make checks faster, the government says.
It also introduces a mechanism – the so-called Stormont brake – that enables local politicians to raise concerns about the imposition of new EU laws in Northern Ireland on a case-by-case basis.
The UK government could then veto their introduction in Northern Ireland.
On a visit to a garden centre on the outskirts of Belfast, Mr Heaton-Harris told reporters: “There’s some European processes that also are happening. So, the European Parliament have its say on this, I believe, next week, and then I think there’s one more stage in the European political sphere for it to go through, so that’ll be in the next two or three weeks.
“We will be having a vote in parliament on a similar timetable.”
Mr Sunak has previously promised that MPs would get a say on the deal he sealed with Brussels but would not say when.
DUP and some Tories yet to show their hand
The DUP, which collapsed powersharing in Northern Ireland in protest at the protocol early last year, has yet to decide whether to back the Windsor Framework and return to devolution.
Last week its leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson established an eight-person panel to review the new deal with the aim of providing a report on it by the end of the month – a timeline broadly in line with the suggested vote in parliament.
Senior Conservative Brexiteers have largely welcomed the framework – though former prime minister Mr Johnson admitted he may not vote for it.
The Northern Ireland Protocol was designed to avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland after Brexit.
But the deal Mr Johnson agreed with the EU effectively resulted in a customs border down the Irish Sea, with checks required on goods going from Great Britain to Northern Ireland.
Windsor Framework: What role will EU rules still play in NI?
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The DUP and many Conservatives were also unhappy about what they saw as a “democratic deficit” caused by NI having to follow EU trade rules.
The Stormont brake is designed to address this and Mr Heaton-Harris said further detail would be provided in the coming weeks on how it would work.
“What I think we’re going to do is actually publish a statutory instrument in the next couple of weeks that will demonstrate what we say it’s going to do, it will do,” he said.