Sammy Wilson: To maintain the integrity of the UK and restore Stormont the unworkable Windsor Framework must be replaced
(Read also: Lords Godson and Bew on why Stormont should return)
Trade checks between NI and GB are going to have to be introduced, new EU laws are being imposed on NI on a weekly basis causing legal, and only this week EU Vice President Maros Šefčovič marched into Belfast to announce how £1,000 million of UK-provided money would be spent.
There could be no starker reminder that Northern Ireland is still an EU vassal state despite the claims of the prime minister that NI is a full member of the UK and the border in the Irish Sea has been eradicated.
The prime minister’s hope that the NI Assembly would be restored has also not been realised because the requirement of the Good Friday Agreement (GFA) that the operation of the assembly must have the support of both unionists and nationalists cannot be met while unionists would by law be required to implement the Windsor Framework if they were to take up ministerial office in the assembly.
In order to maintain the integrity of the United Kingdom, restore political institutions in NI and resolve the outstanding issues which have prevented Brexit being completed, it is important the defective and unworkable framework is replaced.
For those who are concerned about the determination of remainers to undo Brexit, resolving the EU influence in Northern Ireland should be a priority. At an early stage EU negotiators decided that they would use NI as a way of keeping their foot in the door of the UK and use NI as a way of restricting the UK government from freeing itself from EU influence.
Theresa May and Boris Johnson fell into their trap and accepted the EU argument that only by keeping NI within the EU sphere of influence could a hard border be avoided between NI and the Republic of Ireland (RoI).
The result was changes having to be made in the Act of Union, border posts erected within the UK, foreign laws being applied to a part of the UK and NI being subject to rule by the European Court of Justice (ECJ).
EU politicians and negotiators frequently argue that most of these issues would be resolved if only the UK would align itself with EU regulations especially those pertaining to animals, foodstuffs and medicines. Of course should a UK government go down that road arguments would be made for further alignment and it would not be too long before we would find the UK chained once again to the EU, and Brexit undone.
It will be argued that this government would never do such a thing but it should be remembered that within the last two weeks we have rejoined the EU Horizon programme, Frontex the EU frontier arrangements and only last week in the House of Commons we had arch Brexiteer, NI minister Steve Baker arguing that there could be no change in the WF because the “EU and its stakeholders would not accept it”.
Conservative Party policy towards the EU seems to be increasing driven by the remain wing of that party.
Leaving aside what the Conservatives may or may not do, it looks increasingly likely that once the election is called within the next year it will be the Labour Party which will be in the driving seat. They have made no secret of the fact that they will be prepared to have closer relations with the EU and the problems with the WF will give them the perfect opportunity to argue that closer alignment with the EU would solve those problems and save the Union.
The new Shadow NI secretary Hilary Benn MP is a zealous remainer, a clever political operator and not a person to miss a chance to promote his agenda while parcelling it up in attractive wrapping paper.
He will see the opportunity to open the NI door into which the EU already has its feet well and truly planted to include the whole of the UK in closer alignment with the EU under the guise of sorting out the trading and economic problems resulting from the defects in the WF.
The present government’s unwillingness to face up to the problems caused by its botched Brexit negotiations today will hand a gift to a future Labour government wishing to entangle the UK with the EU in the future.
Some may ask would the Labour Party policy of closer alignment not suit unionists since it would mean that the whole of the UK would be dragged into the EU sphere of influence and not just NI removing the fear of divergence between NI and GB.
Whilst that may be true it would contrary to the will of the majority of the people of the UK who voted to leave, and to the firm belief which I have that the UK is better off out of the EU.
Furthermore there is an alternative which would honour the Brexit vote yet allow trading relationships with the EU to operate smoothly.
If the government were to pursue the option of mutual enforcement where the UK and the EU respected each others regulations, ensured that traders operating across the Irish border adhered to the requirements of the jurisdiction they were selling to, heavily sanctioned traders who broke the rules and using trade intelligence targeted those suspected of taking advantage of a totally frictionless border, then the current impasse could be resolved leaving no opportunity for a future Labour government and the EU to use NI as the excuse to undo Brexit.
Sadly on the current political trajectory it looks more like the legacy of this government will be that it gave the country a vote to get out of the EU, let the people down with botched negotiations and handed a Labour government the opportunity to ease the United Kingdom back into the European Union.
• Sammy Wilson is the DUP MP for East Antrim. This article was first published by the website CapX
• This is one of a number of opinion essays the News Letter is running on the Windsor Framework and whether or not the DUP should return to Stormont, including one that linked to at the top of this page by Lords (Dean Godson) and (Paul) Bew, who said that the Windsor Framework is the best way for unionism to secure its ultimate objective