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Tory Brexiteers will back Northern Ireland protocol bill

LONDON — Hardline Tory Brexiteers have signaled support for the U.K.’s plan to overrule post-Brexit trade rules in Northern Ireland, which they said protects the Union of the United Kingdom.

The European Research Group (ERG), a group of Euroskeptic Conservative MPs, is poised to support the government’s Northern Ireland Protocol bill when it receives its second reading in the House of Commons Monday.

The protocol, which introduced sanitary and customs checks on goods moving from Great Britain to Northern Ireland, was painstakingly agreed with the EU as a crucial part of the Brexit divorce deal.

A legal analysis of the bill carried out by the group’s so-called star chamber of experts concluded that the bill “properly reinforces” the Good Friday / Belfast Agreement, which put an end to decades of sectarian violence in the region.

In a report outlining its conclusions, published Saturday, the star chamber cautioned that “important aspects” of the bill rely on U.K. ministers introducing secondary legislation, but assuming those regulations are approved, the bill would protect the Union.

“The legal star chamber has come to the conclusion that it approves of the Northern Ireland Protocol Bill because it achieves the constitutional objective of reaffirming Northern Ireland as part of the constitutional territory of the United Kingdom and its sovereignty,” they wrote.

The report was authored by prominent Conservative lawmakers Bill Cash, a life-long Euroskeptic and chair of the Commons European scrutiny committee, and the ERG’s deputy chair David Jones, together with pro-Brexit lawyers Martin Howe and Barney Reynolds.

The star chamber expressed satisfaction with the bill’s provisions to remove the role of the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) when it comes to “interpreting and applying” the protocol. But in a sign the ERG do not fully trust the government, the group warned the legislation would also empower ministers “to reintroduce such a mechanism via regulation.”

The group also concluded the bill “does not remove the so-called Irish Sea trade border” but it “limits its effect to goods actually destined for the EU.”

“The bill has been made necessary by the European Union’s intransigence in respect of the negotiating mandate, and given the failure of the negotiations” between the EU and the U.K., they wrote, “attributable to the European Union’s unjustifiable failure to recognize that the United Kingdom has left the European Union.”

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