We need to see full legal implications of keeping NI in single market

Morning View
Morning View

It has been clear now for many weeks that the government is trying to increase the number of regulatory checks between Northern Ireland and Great Britain.

There are even suggestions that the Province will be kept fully in the European Union single market.

The Brexit secretary Dominic Raab has been given opportunities to deny this, both in the House of Commons and during his visit to Northern Ireland on Friday, but has not done.

If it is the case that NI will be kept fully in the single market, then this is a massive setback for unionism, the biggest since the Anglo Irish Agreement.

It might be that such speculation is overblown, although it is strange if so that Mr Raab has not discounted it explicitly.

There have certainly been glimmers of hope in recent weeks. The threat by Ruth Davidson and David Mundell to resign as Scottish Tories, the party’s two most senior representatives in that country, if Northern Ireland gets special status was perhaps the single greatest boost for unionists here.

After that development, the respected former foreign secretary William Hague said that even a Brexit no deal would be better than an outcome that split the Tory party and damaged the Union. This was notable because Lord Hague is one of the most moderate Conservative voices on Brexit.

So it might be that the government has pulled back somewhat, as the Sunday Times was suggesting yesterday.

Meanwhile, the attorney general Geoffrey Cox is reported to have said that the separating Northern Ireland from Great Britain would have unacceptable consequences for the UK constitution.

Therefore, it is important that David Davis, the former Brexit secretary, is calling for such legal advice to be released.

As he says, the initial failure to publish the Iraq war legal advice was deeply damaging to the reputation of the then government and its actions in pursuing that conflict.

We now need to see the full legal implications of Northern Ireland being kept in the EU single market.