Return to Stormont: Sammy Wilson appears to break ranks with the DUP leadership and criticises the government's deal - calling the Tories 'spineless Brexit-betrayers'

A sign has emerged of discontent within the top ranks of the DUP over the government’s return-to-Stormont deal.
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Sammy Wilson a short time ago rose to speak in the House of Commons, berating the government for “betraying” Brexit, and criticising part of its deal – a deal which Sir Jeffrey Donaldson has vaunted as sufficient to ensure devolution returns.

“Despite the gains which my party leader and deputy party leader have gained in these negotiations,” said Mr Wilson, “the fact remains that in NI there are still EU-manned border posts being built which will create a border within our own country.

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"And when the Northern Ireland Assembly sits, ministers and Assembly members will be expected by law to adhere to and implement laws which are made in Brussels, which they had no say over, and no ability to amend, and no ability to stop.

Sammy Wilson in the CommonsSammy Wilson in the Commons
Sammy Wilson in the Commons

“This is a result of this spineless, weak-kneed, Brexit-betraying Government, refusing to take on the EU and its interference in Northern Ireland.

"The government has admitted: there will be divergence in the future.

"On page 17 of the command paper, there's an indication that there'll be a legal requirement that new legislation [will be] assessed as to whether it impacts on trade between NI and GB, and if so ministers have to make a statement.

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"We’ve had the Minister of State only this week saying that does not mean the UK government cannot introduce laws which diverge from the EU laws that apply in NI.

"What is it? Is NI going to find it’s got the ability to stay tied to the UK, or will the government proceed happily to change laws here regardless of the impact it has on NI?”

This is a reference to point 43.S in the government’s command paper, published today, which sets out the practical implications of the deal.

43.S says that the government commits to “a legal requirement that new legislation is assessed as to whether it impacts on trade between Northern Ireland and Great Britain and, if so, for ministers to make a statement considering any impacts on the operation of Northern Ireland’s place in the UK’s internal market”.

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The next segment goes on to say the government plans upon “including a new Internal Market Assessment in the Regulatory Impact Assessment process, as part of an agile regulatory approach to benefit the whole UK”.

It adds that “any Regulatory Impact Assessments would need to account for any adverse effects on trade within all parts of our Union – so as to avoid Whitehall applying unnecessary regulatory burdens on business in any part of the UK”.

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Northern Ireland Secretary Chris Heaton-Harris said he had got this wrong.

“Forgive me, some of the points he made were actually incorrect,” he said.

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"We have always said, in fact in the Protocol Bill, we said that there would be checks on goods going into the EU single market.

"I think every piece of legislation we'd proposed in this place has said that.

"But it’d be UK folk who are operating the UK internal market scheme.

"And on this, the fourth anniversary of leaving the European Union, I can tell him that this agreed package of measures will not change the freedoms and powers we have secured through Brexit or through the Windsor Framework.”