The government’s bill to deal with the Northern Ireland Protocol is a con and it does not advance the unionist cause
A letter from Ben Habib:
Sure, it throws red meat to Brexiteers and unionists in the form of promises to uphold the Act of Union, jettison EU State Aid laws, VAT and Excise duty rates.
The icing on the cake is its reference to the removal of the European Court of Justice as the supreme arbiter of the protocol. But all this British chest beating is belied by its last clause.
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That states only the last six clauses of the bill will pass into law.
All the ‘good stuff’ trotted out earlier in the bill has no operative effect.
So, what do these last six clauses say?
Well, one of them wastes an entire clause to state that only six clauses, of which it is one, pass into law.
So that leaves five.
Of these, one authorises government to incur expenditure in implementing the act and another is a list of definitions.
The remaining three clauses describe how new regulations can be made once the bill passes into law.
In summary, they state the government may itself pass statutory instruments and implement these unless a past act of Parliament is being varied — in which case the regulation must be subject to an affirmative procedure, ie be put to Parliament.
This is just a statement of how government business is done.
In short, any changes to the protocol would have to go through a completely new Parliamentary process. This bill does not attack the protocol and it does not advance the cause of unionists in Northern Ireland, or indeed the union of Northern Ireland with Great Britain.
It is nothing more than an attempt to distract while the government again kicks the can down the road.
Ben Habib, London SW1
• Ruth Dudley Edwards June 14: Boris has flaws but I still hope he’ll unlock protocol
• Peter Robinson June 14: DUP should stay out of Stormont until protocol bill is fully enacted
• Owen Polley June 13: Billy Bingham should have had a knighthood
• Ben Lowry June 11: BBC NI is downgrading its Twelfth output but pretending otherwise