Controversial legislation overriding parts of the Northern Ireland Protocol will be tabled at the start of next week, Downing Street has confirmed.
The plan to alter the Protocol, which governs Northern Ireland’s post-Brexit trading arrangements, will inflame a row with the European Union.
It could also prove a key test of Boris Johnson’s authority after a bruising no-confidence showdown earlier this week that saw 41% of his MPs vote against him.
The Northern Ireland Protocol was designed to avoid the imposition of a hard border with the Republic of Ireland as a result of Brexit.
As part of the arrangement, Northern Ireland remains under some EU rules and there are checks on goods entering Northern Ireland from Great Britain, effectively creating a border in the Irish Sea.
Opponents, including unionists and hardline Brexiteers, say it undermines Northern Ireland’s place in the UK and claim it is causing difficulties for businesses.
Power sharing in Northern Ireland has been put on hold because the unionist DUP refuses to join the executive until its concerns about the protocol have been resolved.
Foreign Secretary Liz Truss last month laid out the plan to introduce legislation to override parts of the protocol, citing the need to respond to the “very grave and serious situation”.
She said the bill would preserve elements that were working while fixing those that were not – on the movement of goods, goods regulation, VAT, subsidy control and governance.
Ms Truss said the bill would propose a “green channel” to free goods moving and staying within the UK from unnecessary red tape.
At the same time, the government said it would ensure that goods destined for the EU “undergo the full checks and controls applied under EU law” underpinned by data-sharing arrangements.
But Britain has been warned that unilaterally pulling out of the Protocol could put at risk the wider post-Brexit free trade deal between the UK and Europe, raising the prospect of a trade war.
Questions have also been raised about the legality of the move. Opponents say overriding the Protocol would breach international law.
On Friday, a Downing Street spokesman said: “The bill has been agreed by the relevant cabinet committees and will be introduced to parliament on Monday.
“We will alongside the bill publish a summary of the legal advice.”
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer, speaking on a visit to Belfast, said his party would scrap the legislation.
Ministers fear there could be a significant rebellion featuring some of the 148 Tory MPs who voted no-confidence in the prime minister earlier this week.
They also believe they might have to use the Parliament Act to force the legislation through if it is rejected by the House of Lords.