BORIS Johnson has cleared the first potential roadblock in his plan to rip up his own Brexit deal.

MPs voted by 295 to 221 to give a second reading to the Prime Minister’s proposal to ditch parts of the Northern Ireland Protocol. Conservative MPs, including Douglas Ross’s Scottish cohort, refused to vote against the move despite warnings it will break international law.

Four Scottish Tory MPs – Andrew Bowie, David Duguid, David Mundell and John Lamont – backed the Northern Ireland Protocol Bill, while Ross and Scottish Secretary Alister Jack joined dozens of Conservative MPs in abstaining.

Bowie insisted the Bill helped protect the integrity of the Union – and dismissed SNP calls for the protocol to be extended to Scotland.

The result clears the way for the plan to undergo detailed scrutiny in the coming weeks.

After the vote, Foreign Secretary Liz Truss tweeted the Bill, which gives ministers powers to override parts of the post-Brexit deal on Northern Ireland, “provides practical solutions to problems caused by the Protocol and protects the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement”.

“While a negotiated outcome remains our preference – the EU must accept changes to the Protocol itself,” she added.

The Prime Minister earlier claimed the proposed legislation could be carried out “fairly rapidly”, with the proposals in law by the end of the year.

The Government is aiming to fast-track the Bill through the Commons before Parliament’s summer recess.

However, some MPs who opted not to block it at second reading appear likely to seek amendments, and the House of Lords is also expected to contest parts of the Bill, setting up a lengthy showdown between the two Houses.

The European Union has also launched fresh legal action against the UK in retaliation over the Government’s move.

Nicola Sturgeon has warned the move risks a “hugely damaging self-inflicted trade war in the middle of a cost of living crisis”. The First Minister added that the move may “very well break international law.

The National: Nicola Sturgeon

Johnson’s government has said the measures to remove checks on goods and animal and plant products travelling from Great Britain to Northern Ireland are necessary to safeguard the Good Friday Agreement and peace and stability.

“What we are trying to do is fix something that I think is very important to our country, which is the balance of the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement,” he told reporters at the G7 summit in Germany.

“You have got one tradition, one community, that feels that things really aren’t working in a way that they like or understand, you’ve got unnecessary barriers to trade between Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

“All we are saying is you can get rid of those whilst not in any way endangering the EU single market.”

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Asked if the measures could be in place this year, Johnson said: “Yes, I think we could do it very fast, Parliament willing.”

He said it would be “even better” if we could “get some of that flexibility we need in our conversations with Maros Sefcovic”, the European Commission vice-president.

The Prime Minister added: “We remain optimistic.”

The National: Prime Minister Boris Johnson

During the debate ahead of the Commons vote, Scottish Tory MP Bowie made the case for the Bill.

He said: “I sympathise with those in Northern Ireland who were alarmed to hear the British Government claim in court that the Northern Ireland protocol ‘temporarily suspended’ article VI of the Act of Union. Article VI created the internal market of the United Kingdom and was designed to give Ireland—now Northern Ireland—residents equal footing with regards to trade, and guarantee equal footing in all future treaties with foreign powers.

“To those of us who hold most dear the notion that all in these islands are equal and that all are held in parity of esteem, that article is fundamental to who we are as a people. That is why it is not surprising that those who want to break this Union, to remove that right, to take away our identity, to remove the right to call ourselves British, from those of us who hold that right most dear are against that move today.”

SNP MP Martin Docherty intervened to ask: “If [Bowie] is protecting what he and I would both agree is the Treaty of Union, why does he not extend the protocol, even as reformed by the Government, to Scotland, which, like Northern Ireland, voted to remain in the European Union?”

Bowie dismissed the suggestion and claimed the SNP are “against the Bill because it affirms our Union and protects its integrity, which is a very bad thing indeed for the separatists”.

The SNP’s Northern Ireland spokesperson, Richard Thomson, condemned the Scottish Conservatives following the vote.

He said: “The Tories know fine well that their attempts to unilaterally tear up the Northern Ireland Protocol which they insisted upon will breach international law and risk a damaging trade war with the EU, exacerbating the existing twin harms of Brexit and the Tory-made cost of living crisis.

“Scotland voted overwhelmingly against Brexit. Yet still the Scottish Tories line up behind their Westminster bosses to ignore Scotland's wishes and implement policies that will end up making us poorer.

“Increasingly, it’s clear that the only way to escape from the nightmare of Boris’ Brexit Britain and to build a future which works for everyone is through taking on the powers of Independence – taking our place once again in the EU at the heart of the world’s largest and wealthiest trading bloc.” 

Truss attempted to downplay concerns of MPs by saying the Bill has a “strong legal justification” and the UK remains committed to seeking a negotiated solution.

But leading the criticism from the Tory benches, former prime minister Theresa May told the Commons: “The UK’s standing in the world, our ability to convene and encourage others in the defence of our shared values, depends on the respect others have for us as a country, a country that keeps its word, and displays those shared values in its actions.

“As a patriot, I would not want to do anything that would diminish this country in the eyes of the world.

“I have to say to the Government, this Bill is not, in my view, legal in international law, it will not achieve its aims, and it will diminish the standing of the United Kingdom in the eyes of the world, and I cannot support it.”

Conservative former Northern Ireland secretary Julian Smith also said: “I fear that this Bill is a kind of displacement activity from the core task of doing whatever we can to negotiate a better protocol deal for Northern Ireland.

“I also fear that it risks creating an impression to unionism that a black-and-white solution is available, when the reality is once this Bill has been dragged through the Lords, and courts, and EU responses and reprisals, compromise will ultimately be needed.”