Sammy Wilson, Lord Dodds, Lord Morrow: There can be no dispute about it, there is still a border in the Irish Sea
The view that the battle to break the insidious damage which the Northern Ireland Protocol/Windsor Framework has done to Northern Ireland’s links with the GB economy, the long term destruction it will do to our constitutional position within the UK and the undermining of the democratic process of law making it is doing today, is over.
We do not share this view.
We recognise that in the face of a government which cares more about keeping the European Union happy than it does about protecting the union of the countries which make up the UK, our leader had a difficult task in wresting meaningful concessions from the Brexit betraying government at Westminster.
We recognise some changes have been made to smooth the operation of the totally unnecessary trade restrictions which cost businesses in Northern Ireland so dearly and cut consumers here off from suppliers in GB.
We welcome some of the confidence building measures which are part of the negotiated arrangements and look forward to the further measures promised.
However, we recognise that fundamentally the Protocol/Windsor Framework is still intact and that the EU still holds a grip on significant areas of our economic life.
Through no fault of our negotiators, and it’s no criticism of their commitment, it has not been possible to deliver on the seven tests by which we said we would judge the outcome of discussions with the government.
There can be no dispute about it, there is still a border in the Irish Sea.
The border posts are still being built at the cost of tens of millions of pounds. Under Article 12 of the NI Protocol the UK Government is obliged to “”facilitate the presence of European Union representatives and provide them with all requests for relevant information relating to movements of goods from GB to NI.”
If any proof was needed as to who really controls these posts then the remainder of Article 12 provides damning proof. It reads “Where Union representatives request the authorities of the UK to carry out control measures in individual cases for duly stated reasons the UK authorities SHALL carry out the control measures.”
The whole thing is propped up by hundreds of millions of pounds being spent on a Trader Support Service to cope with the burdens imposed.
The Government has accepted, and is implementing, the right of the EU to exercise these powers or indeed to demand that all goods go through the full EU border control checks if the EU decides it wants them to.
Thus it is obvious that the battle on the Irish Sea border is not over. Indeed for many companies in NI there will still be a requirement for their goods to go through the full EU border red lane procedures and checks even though they will never sell any of their goods into the EU and their products will stay in Northern Ireland or go back to the rest of the UK. That is NOT the free circulation of goods within the UK internal market.
And of course the Irish sea border is still obvious in many other ways from restrictions on what you can order from the rest of the UK to the way Northern Ireland is excluded from laws applying elsewhere in the UK because of the Protocol/Windsor Framework.
In some 300 areas EU jurisdiction has been applied through hundreds of foreign laws and that all remains fully in force. The “Stormont Brake” does not apply to this.
Northern Ireland producers and consumers are subject to foreign laws even where they do not trade with the EU at all. The EU still has the sole right to propose and make laws in these areas.
There will no doubt be a quick effort to demonstrate use of the Stormont Brake when a EU law is being changed but this will prove to be the exception and in any case can only be used in very limited circumstances.
And of course it will require support from the UUP which has a poor record on stopping bad legislation as was seen when they stood back and allowed the Alliance Party and Sinn Fein to pass new laws which has given financial advantages to Integrated Schools leaving Controlled and Maintained schools struggling for resources.
The battle to stop Northern Ireland being driven further into the EU zone of regulation and laws and further away from the UK must also go on.
Another way in which a legislative and constitutional wedge can be driven between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK is if the government in Westminster were to introduce new laws or dispense with EU laws which they currently adhere to.
The government has promised that it will avoid this from happening by passing legislation requiring ministers and departments to test if such actions would increase trade barriers between GB and Northern Ireland.
They have indeed passed such legislation last Thursday. However they then included a provision that even if it were discovered that changing UK legislation left Northern Ireland stranded with damaging EU law ministers could proceed anyhow !! It’s not hard to guess how often this get out clause will be used.
There is no doubt that many would love to see these contentious, difficult and embarrassing issues go away. The fact is they will not…and they should not be allowed to.
The whole Protocol/Windsor Framework arrangements come up for review in November and it would be political madness to let these issues disappear, or refuse to highlight them. That would be an excuse for not having to address them and get rid of them. Only by keeping attention on them can we force the government, the EU and the Assembly parties to address them, however more difficult the task now is.
The Government's Command Paper does not undo the constitutional and economic damage of the Protocol/Windsor Framework.
Recognising that fact, we must fight on for our entitlement to be treated as equal citizens within the United Kingdom.
This essay was sent in with a headline of ‘The battle goes on – no surrender’. The authors are Lord Dodds, the former deputy leader of the DUP, Sammy Wilson, the MP for East Antrim, and party chairman Lord Morrow