A CHANGE of prime minister may help to ease tensions between the EU and UK, a Conservative MP has said.

Justice Committee chairman Sir Robert Neill criticised sweeping ministerial powers in the Northern Ireland Protocol Bill as he lodged a series of amendments.

A first stage debate on the Bill was held in the House of Commons on Wednesday, with Paymaster General Michael Ellis taking to the despatch box to defend the government’s policy.

The legislation would give ministers the power to unilaterally ditch parts of the agreement if it passes in it's current form.

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Ellis would later urge Neill to drop his amendment as the government needs to “move swiftly” over the Bill.

On Boris Johnson’s resignation Neill, the MP for Bromley and Chislehurst, said: “I very much hope that one consequence of what has happened is it may be easier to rebuild and repair relationships and trust and that could then lead to a negotiated change which would mean this legislation wasn’t ever necessary.”

He added: “If the Bill is to be taken forward it seems to me that we have to have proper safeguards to ensure proper parliamentary and democratic oversight of the way that it is taken into force.”

Intervening, Labour MP for Walthamstow Stella Creasy said that so-called “Henry VIII” powers in the Bill could “set a precedent” for giving ministers more delegated power in future laws, stressing the need to “uphold the primacy” of the Commons.

The National: Tory MP Robert Neill criticised the sweeping powers the Bill would give to ministersTory MP Robert Neill criticised the sweeping powers the Bill would give to ministers

Neill replied that all governments use Henry VIII powers, adding: “But the reality is there are ‘Henry VIII powers’, and ‘Henry VIII powers’, and this is Henry VIII, the six wives, Cardinal Wolsey and Thomas Cromwell all thrown in together pretty much, as far as I can see.”

He went on: “We all know that governments come and go and once you set a precedent that gives very sweeping powers to a government you may happen to agree with, there may and indeed inevitably there will be, as night follows day, be a day when a government which we do not agree with comes in and uses those powers in a way which we might wish to object to.”

Neill earlier argued that the UK Government must allow MPs to consider any basis for changing Northern Ireland’s post-Brexit trade agreements.

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The Tory MP said the Bill was “exceptional” and not in a “good way”, with the Government considering the “very grave and profound step” of withdrawing from the protocol unilaterally.

He tabled a series of amendments to the Bill, calling on ministers to allow the Commons to consider any reasons for disapplying parts of the agreement in future.

Neill said: “The point of these amendments is to say that… if the Government or any government were to take that step it should do so upon the most compelling grounds so that the factual basis for their actions meet the legal test.

“The reputational consequences, politically, internationally and legally are very significant and therefore it should only be done when that is thoroughly tested and set before this House to be tested.”

He added: “If need be, it is not unreasonable it seems to me for the Government to come back to the House, make its case in relation to the specific items where it seeks to disapply an international treaty, if it has got a good enough case the House will support it and they can then get on with it.”

It comes as Downing Street said it was “not aware” of any changes being made to the Bill as it passes through the Commons.

Johnson’s spokesman was asked whether the controversial Bill, which would give ministers sweeping powers and allow the UK to abandon Brexit arrangements unilaterally, will carry on through the committee stage.

The official said: “I think the Leader of House will set out plans but, at this point, I’m not aware of any changes in what was planned pre-recess with regards to what’s going through the House.

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“The Bill and the approach to the protocol was something agreed by Government, and so, under convention, we will continue with that process”.

Asked whether negotiations with the EU are suspended until there is a new prime minister, the spokesperson referred questions to the Foreign Office and added: “I don’t know if they might continue at official level.

“I’m not sure if there were already negotiations between (European Commission Vice-President Maros) Sefcovic and the Foreign Secretary that were scheduled.”