Britain is set to roll back parts of the Northern Ireland Protocol under pressure from Stormont and hardline Conservative Party Brexiteers. Brussels will launch three separate lawsuits against Britain in retaliation.
The Brexit bill, which has been accused of undermining the Good Friday Agreement, is at the center of the dispute.
Here we tell you everything you need to know about the protocol, how Boris Johnson wants to change it and whether or not the UK and EU are headed for a trade war.
What is the Northern Ireland Protocol?
It was an agreement between the UK and the European Union that determined what the trade rules would be for Northern Ireland after Brexit.
Northern Ireland shares a land border with Ireland, which is a member of the EU, over which goods move freely as there are no checkpoints.
Since all parties are committed to keeping this land border open, London and Brussels have agreed to screen goods to and from the UK mainland.
But it effectively created a customs border between two different parts of the UK – Northern Ireland and Britain – which infuriated Unionists.
What are the latest news ?
The Northern Ireland Protocol Bill passed its second reading on Monday evening by 295 votes to 221, with 283 Tory MPs out of a total of 359 voting in favor of the bill. None voted against, while 76 others did not vote.
Theresa May said on Monday night that the government’s plans to tear up the Northern Ireland protocol were illegal.
In a scathing speech to the Commons, the former PM said tearing up the Northern Ireland Protocol Bill would ‘diminish the UK’s standing in the eyes of the world’ but would not guarantee a solution in the long term to the problem of maritime borders.
The second reading was the first opportunity for MPs to vote on the proposals.
For a year and a half, negotiators from the European Commission and the United Kingdom have been debating how to ease the trade frictions created by the protocol.
The talks are deeply technical with no easy answers as the UK strives to protect the integrity of the Union and Brussels tries to maintain the integrity of the single market.
Liz Truss, the Foreign Secretary, announced earlier this month that the UK would introduce legislation to unilaterally suspend parts of the protocol.
It comes after the DUP refused to enter power-sharing in Stormont with Sinn Fein following May’s election that made Irish reunification supporters Northern Ireland’s largest political party for the first-ever time.
The DUP has placed its opposition to the protocol at the heart of its campaign and is blocking the restoration of the Northern Ireland Assembly until it is removed or replaced, meaning the executive cannot stand tackling issues such as the cost of living and health care.
So what is the problem?
Unionists fear the protocol will drive a wedge between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK.
The DUP says checks drive up the cost of living, but this is disputed by other parties in Northern Ireland, who say the country’s special status in the single market has protected its economy.