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Northern Ireland protocol bill passes Commons vote

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Proposed legislation to allow the UK to unilaterally rip up Brexit arrangements for Northern Ireland at the risk of a trade war with the EU passed the second reading stage in the House of Commons on Monday night.As expected the Northern Ireland protocol bill passed its first hurdle, with MPs voting 295 to 221 in favour despite heavy criticism from some Conservative backbenchers, including former prime minister Theresa May, who said the move is illegal and unnecessary.

The second reading was the first opportunity MPs have had to vote on the controversial proposals, which the foreign secretary, Liz Truss, said were “legal and necessary”.Boris Johnson predicted earlier on Monday that the laws could go through “fairly rapidly” and be on the statute books by the end of the year.It is now expected to be fast-tracked through parliament with a condensed committee stage of just three days, instead of the usual two or three weeks.Opening the debate, Truss said there was “strong legal justification” for it and that the UK remains committed to seeking a negotiated solution.She repeated that her “preferred option” to solve the dispute over Brexit trading arrangements was negotiation, but that she had no choice but to press ahead with legislation as the EU refused to reopen the text of the protocol.The Northern Ireland secretary, Brandon Lewis, said the bill was designed to ensure the same free flow of goods from Great Britain to Northern Ireland “as from Great Yarmouth to Carlisle”.

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