The Northern Ireland Protocol, known as the “Irish backstop”, was an annex to the November 2018 draft agreement that outlined provisions to prevent a hard border in Ireland following the United Kingdom`s withdrawal from the European Union. The Protocol contains a provision on a safety net to deal with circumstances in which other satisfactory arrangements have yet to enter into force at the end of the transition period. This project has been replaced by a new protocol which will be described below. One justification put forward by the UK government for this disregard for international law is that the EU can act in bad faith and must therefore take steps to deal with this eventuality. They highlight the serious consequences in Northern Ireland if the EU uses the direct effect mechanism of the Withdrawal Agreement to restrict trade between different parts of the UK. There is a general principle of good faith in contract law that the UK bill violates. Article 26 of the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties (Vienna Convention) sets out the principle pacta sunt servanda: any treaty in force is legally binding on the contracting parties and must be respected by them in good faith. Under Article 27 of the Vienna Convention, national law does not provide for any justification for an infringement. Given the principle of parliamentary sovereignty, although the British Parliament may enact laws that violate international law under national law, the obligation under international law remains. Northern Ireland Minister Brandon Lewis referred to this in September when he spoke of breaching international law in a “very specific and limited way”. On 23 January 2020, the UK Parliament approved the draft agreement by passing the European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Act 2020.
Following the signing of the Agreement, the Government of the United Kingdom issued and deposited the instrument of ratification of Great Britain on 29 January 2020.   The agreement was ratified by the Council of the European Union on 30 January 2020 after obtaining the consent of the European Parliament on 29 January 2020. The withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the Union entered into force on 31 January 2020 at 11 .m GMT, and on that date the Withdrawal Agreement under Article 185 entered into force. .