Northern Ireland: MPs back plan to change Brexit deal

Last updated at 08:29
Map showing Northern Ireland.

The government has taken the first steps to change part of the Brexit deal involving Northern Ireland.

A vote by MPs (Members of Parliament) saw 295 votes to 221 in favour of scrapping parts of something called the Northern Ireland Protocol and is the first stage of several more stages before any changes can be made.

The Northern Ireland Protocol is a set of rules agreed as part of the Brexit deal with the EU (European Union).

At the moment, goods moving from Great Britain into Northern Ireland have to face EU checks, but once on the island, those goods can pass easily across the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.

Why was the Northern Ireland Protocol created?
Larne portGetty Images

Before Brexit, the whole of the UK was in the European Union (EU) so it was easy to transport goods across the border between England, Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland - as all of those countries had the same EU trade rules, which meant fewer checks were necessary.

But after Brexit, a new system was needed because the EU has strict food rules and requires border checks on certain goods.

The border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland is a sensitive issue because of the history of Northern Ireland.

To enjoy the CBBC Newsround website at its best you will need to have JavaScript turned on.
How was Northern Ireland created 100 years ago?

The Good Friday Agreement, which brought peace to that part of the UK, included the removal of visible signs of the border on the island.

So the Northern Ireland Protocol aims to continue the ease in which products can move between the Republic of Ireland, which is still in the European Union, and Northern Ireland which is part of the UK.

And, because the Northern Ireland Protocol makes it easier to move products across the Irish border, it also means there are now new, stricter checks on goods crossing the Irish Sea, entering Northern Ireland from Great Britain.

Has the Northern Ireland Protocol caused a problem?
To enjoy the CBBC Newsround website at its best you will need to have JavaScript turned on.
BBC's Ireland correspondent Emma Vardy explains why the government wants to change NI Brexit deal

At the moment, Northern Ireland is without a fully functioning government known as the Executive.

The Executive in Northern Ireland is a power share between the two largest political parties in the Northern Ireland Assembly. The largest being Sinn Fein, following recent elections, while the second largest party is the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP).

But the DUP is refusing to be part of the power sharing government in Northern Ireland until the Northern Ireland Protocol is scrapped.

That's because the DUP is a unionist party and wants Northern Ireland to continue to have a close relationship with the rest of the UK.

Map of the the UK showing how goods travelling from GB into NI and onward to the Republic of Ireland.

The DUP argue that the Protocol is creating a divide between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK and is damaging that relationship because the country has to follow rules that are different from England, Scotland and Wales.

DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson has said the protocol had had a "devastating impact" on Northern Ireland.

However other politicians in Northern Ireland say that the protocol is working well and are happy with the deal as it is.

There have been many protests in Northern Ireland against the protocolGetty Images
There have been many protests in Northern Ireland against the protocol
Will the Protocol be changed?

There are warnings about the government's plans, including from former Prime Minister Theresa May, who said that changing the protocol will break international law and "diminish the standing of the United Kingdom in the eyes of the world".

Meanwhile the EU is taking legal action over the governments plans to go back on the Brexit agreement.

And the opposition Labour Party are also against the plans and called for further negotiations with the European Union.

They raised concerns that the government's proposals could cause problems for goods coming into the UK from the EU during a time when some families in Britain are struggling because of the cost of living.

Liz TrussEPA
Liz Truss is the UK Foreign Secretary

But the Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said the government had been left with "no other choice" to "fix" the problems caused by the Northern Ireland Protocol.

And added that the move was legal because changes to the protocol were required to preserve Northern Ireland's Good Friday peace agreement.

Border signStephen Barnes

DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson said the party would "consider what steps we can take" in terms of forming a power sharing government in Northern Ireland if the changes to the protocol are approved down the line.

Following the vote in parliament, the Government's plans, known as a "bill" can continue to the next step towards a change in the law.

Read more about how UK laws are made or changed here.

Your Comments

Join the conversation

1 comment