THE Scottish Government has recommended that Holyrood should not consent to the UK’s controversial Northern Ireland Protocol Bill.

The legislation is set to come to the Scottish Parliament to be scrutinised, but with Constitution Secretary Angus Robertson urging fellow MSPs to reject the bill, it is unlikely to pass due to the SNP-Green cooperation agreement.

The bill intends to unilaterally override parts of the Brexit withdrawal agreement, signed only two years ago by the UK Government and the EU. The EU have infringement proceedings against the UK underway for previous breaches, and if no solution to the row is found it could escalate into a trade war.

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Foreign Secretary Liz Truss, the favourite to take over after Boris Johnson steps down as Prime Minister, sponsored the bill – which has been described as "utterly reckless and dangerous". 

It comes after the Scottish Parliament passed a motion calling on the UK Government to withdraw the Protocol Bill and “resume meaningful negotiations” with the EU on June 29.

Robertson, in a 16-page memorandum, set out the reasons why the Scottish Government believes the bill should be rejected, including its “illegality” under international law and the impact on Scotland.

He wrote that the Scottish Government “is extremely concerned about the potential damage such a dispute could do to Scotland’s vital interests, both in terms of trade and through exclusion from prestigious funding and cooperation opportunities such as the EU Horizon Programme”.

Robertson later added: “The Scottish Government cannot support a bill that may well be found to break international law and could lead to a trade dispute that would be very harmful to Scotland, at a time when the country is facing a cost-of-living crisis and the risk of recession.”

The National: Robertson set out the Scottish Governments reasoning for recommending consent is witheld for the BillRobertson set out the Scottish Governments reasoning for recommending consent is witheld for the Bill (Image: Newsquest)

The briefing document also sets out 20 separate clauses within the bill, from the movement and regulation of goods and VAT to the role of the European Court of Justice, that the Scottish Government has concerns over.

Robertson also raised the issue of the bill undermining an international agreement and the extent of the “breadth of powers” given to the UK Government through the legislation.

The document adds: “The bill will enable UK Ministers to create broad swathes of ‘new law’ to replace the provisions of the Protocol which are dis-applied. Cambridge University Professor of European Law Catherine Barnard has criticised these measures as, ‘eye-wateringly broad’.”

Explaining why the Scottish Government cannot recommend giving consent to the bill as he published the memorandum, Robertson said: “Over the past few months we have been stressing the potentially dreadful impact on people and businesses across Scotland of the UK Government’s decision introduce this bill which will unilaterally tear up parts of the agreement it reached with the EU.

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“We cannot recommend legislative consent for a bill that will compound the damage of Brexit on Scotland’s economy and risk a disastrous trade war with our fellow Europeans at the worst possible time with people struggling with the cost of living crisis and the UK is forecast to enter recession.”

Pointing out the risk that the bill could “be deemed to break international law”, Robertson added: “The EU are already in the process of taking forward legal proceedings against the UK Government and there is a risk of further legal activity.

“We understand that the EU is actively developing options for imposing trade restrictions such as tariffs on the UK and these too will be passed onto the people of Scotland. We are aware that fines could also be imposed on the UK.

The National: Liz Truss is lead negotiatior for the UK over the Northern Ireland Protocol BillLiz Truss is lead negotiatior for the UK over the Northern Ireland Protocol Bill

"It is the people and businesses in Scotland and across the UK who will suffer as they will ultimately be expected to foot the bill.”

Robertson then challenged the UK Government to stop ignoring the convention not to legislate in devolved areas without agreement from Holyrood, and called on them to return to the negotiating table “before these potential issues become very real”.

A Foreign Office spokesperson said: “The Protocol is causing serious economic and political problems in Northern Ireland that need to be fixed. 

“The Northern Ireland Protocol Bill will fix the problems the Protocol has created, protect the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement, and safeguard the EU single market.

“Our preference remains for a negotiated solution, however the EU’s proposals do not go far enough to address the full range of issues in the Protocol.”