Liz Truss is reportedly preparing a bill that would unilaterally remove key parts of the Northern Ireland protocol, removing the need for controls on goods between Britain and Northern Ireland.

No bill is expected to be announced at the Queen’s speech on Tuesday, but the foreign secretary is reported to have asked officials to prepare the draft, which would put the UK in breach of its treaty obligations. .

As well as doing away with checks, the bill would also remove the powers of the European court of justice and remove all requirements for Northern Ireland companies to follow EU regulations.

A government source confirmed that Truss intended to move unilaterally to prepare to change parts of the protocol, but denied that the UK government had given up on the negotiation. Truss is understood to have formed the view that the UK cannot wait for negotiations to conclude before preparing to act unilaterally, given the results of elections in Northern Ireland over the weekend.

Senior UK sources stressed that stability in Northern Ireland was at stake with the glacial pace of the talks and while the EU has made it clear that its mandate will not change.

Some cabinet ministers, including Chancellor Rishi Sunak and Leveling Secretary Michael Gove, were said to be concerned about the high stakes involved in Truss’s strategy and the possibility of a trade war with the EU while the UK is on the brink. of a possible recession.

Cabinet sources suggested that Truss’s maneuvers were part of “leadership feather fluttering”, hinting that they were designed to put her at odds with Sunak in the minds of Conservative MPs. Sources close to Gove and Sunak denied that they were trying to block Truss’ plans.

Initially, it was understood that the bill was intended to give ministers the power in principle to nullify the treaty, but not necessarily to be used in practice. Nevertheless, the times reported on Tuesday that the bill would go further than expected and remove explicit parts of the protocol.

Such a move is expected to draw legal retaliation from the EU if it goes ahead, including the bloc potentially imposing new tariffs.

Truss will argue that the Northern Ireland election results give negotiations a new sense of urgency because the Democratic Unionist party has said it will boycott any involvement in a new government in Stormont until the issue is resolved.

Sinn Féin, which won the most seats in Stormont for the first time, said Northern Ireland was becoming “collateral damage” in the dispute.

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A UK government spokesman said: “Our focus has been, and will continue to be, on preserving peace and stability in Northern Ireland. No decisions have yet been made on the way forward. However, the situation now is very serious.

“It has always been clear to us that steps will be taken to protect the Belfast (Good Friday) agreement if no solutions are found to fix the protocol.”

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