Last week’s draft agreement between the UK and EU has expanded mandatory Northern Ireland-Republic co-operation, Jim Allister has said.
The TUV leader said that the deal is “set to radically undermine the integrity of the UK and if allowed to reach fruition will see Northern Ireland more aligned with the Republic than the UK”.
Mr Allister said: “Closer reading of Monday’s draft agreement between the UK and the EU reveals that, in addition to its obvious betrayal of pledges hitherto made by Her Majesty’s Government, notably on fishing, and its direction of travel towards accepting what Mrs May said no prime minister could ever accept, in terms of abandoning Northern Ireland to the laws and control of the EU, the document has taken huge liberties in terms of expanding mandatory north-south co-operation.”
The News Letter put Mr Allister’s analysis to the DUP, which did not contradict his conclusions. But Christopher Stalford MLA said: “The draft legal text proposed by the European Union and its outworkings have not been agreed.”
Meanwhile, the UK government is under fresh pressure over the Irish border with Labour saying it will try to enshrine in law London’s December pledge to avoid a hard border. The move could lead to defeat for the government or a binding cross-border regulatory convergence.
Referring to last week’s draft agreement, Mr Allister said: “While riddled with exaggerated reference to the Belfast Agreement (which, in fact, had virtually nothing to say about the EU) and professed deference to its terms, this agreement takes audacious steps to expand the ambit of North/South cooperation and with it the influence of EU law.
“I refer in particular to Art 8 of the ‘Protocol on Ireland/Northern Ireland’ (page 112). Here we find a paragraph – fittingly in green – which apparently has already been agreed by the DUP supported-UK government.
“It decrees areas which ‘in full respect of Union law’ will be subject to North-South cooperation.”
Mr Allister added: “These greatly and without mandate expand the 12 subject areas for cooperation specified in the Belfast Agreement. The additions are: energy, telecommunications, broadcasting, justice & security, higher education and sport.
“By the stealth of these negotiations, behind the backs of the people of Northern Ireland, the areas of cooperation required by the Belfast Agreement have been expanded under the aegis of the EU, with a new EU institution, a ‘Specialised Committee’ gifted oversight powers.
“Last Monday’s agreement is set to radically undermine the integrity of the UK and if allowed to reach fruition will see Northern Ireland more aligned with the Republic than the UK. That, of course, is the goal of the EU, but it should not be aided by HMG.”
When the News Letter asked the DUP for a response to Mr Allister’s analysis, the party replied with a statement from its South Belfast MLA Christopher Stalford. He said: “There are a range of areas where Northern Ireland practically co-operates with the Republic of Ireland. This is mutually beneficial to Northern Ireland yet it sits outside the formal political structures of the 1998 agreement.
“It was the DUP that ended the unaccountable nature of the political North-South structures.”
Mr Stalford added: “The draft legal text proposed by the European Union and its outworkings have not been agreed.
“The government has again made clear that the EU draft is not acceptable.
“Last week in Parliament the NIO Minister Shailesh Varma reiterated ‘The prime minister has made her views absolutely clear on that [the draft text]. The economic and constitutional integrity of our country will not be harmed’.
“Mr Allister is mistaken in his uninformed view that any section of any part of EU text is unalterably agreed.
“Mr Allister’s stock and trade is to attack and undermine the work of fellow unionists in the DUP. We reject his approach and will continue to work in Parliament to make sure Northern Ireland is not subject to any internal UK trade barriers.
“We want to see sound practical cooperation with our nearest neighbours for the benefit of everyone.
“There is already work in the health system in the area of cancer treatment and the new cancer centre in Londonderry, the co-operation between law enforcement agencies to track and tackle criminality, as well as joint working on infrastructure projects that benefit all those who use them.”