If you object to any trace of the EU in Northern Ireland future affairs, look away now. Even Lord Frost who delivered the discredited Protocol isn’t quite with you. Sunak’s deal will help he admits “but it’s a bitter pill to swallow”. Whereas Sunak stresses NI ‘s recovery of UK sovereignty, Frost points out reasonably that the deal is so called because it is indeed a framework for applying EU law
We are told that 1700 pages of EU law have been displayed.. But disapplication is actually new EU law which the EU can change or suspend if it wishes “
Well perhaps so in strict legal terms but unilateral change would provoke the sort of major crisis with the UK that the about to be withdrawn UK Protocol Bill created with the EU, thus causing the two year freeze in relations and is I reckon, just about unimaginable . It runs counter in character and nature of the new agreement. As I’ve written before, how a law is implemented is at least as important as the text of the law itself.
Next we come to the estimable Sam McBride in the Bel Tel. The border in the Irish Sea is still with us, writes Sam. Yes that’s that what red and green channels must mean. Indeed Channel 4 News last night revealed infrastructure plans costing tens of millions on a site behind Larne Port. What Sunak was trying to convey however that as a green lane customer you’ll usually be able to drive straight off. However Sam complains that the surviving bureaucracy is still “extraordinary”
Rather, as the EU last night made clear, there will be a reduction in the form-filling when sending GB goods to NI; what have been 80 data fields for each consignment will now be 21. The EU will see that data live and be able to request that British officials stop consignments and check it for them. Very obviously, that still represents a customs border in the Irish Sea… Northern Irish consumers buying products online will only be able to do so if the seller is prepared to fill in customs declarations.
A consensus is emerging that the Stormont brake is a mile short of a complete veto even if as I thought before it doesn’t require a cross community consent vote to register. But if 30 MLAs were to register strong dissent according to the specified criteria can be sure that the UK government would not easily ignore it
The independent Institute for Government actually urges the DUP to action in another sphere.
The Stormont brake offers MLAs the chance to say no to disruptive EU change: Westminster has offered no equivalent on potential UK divergence – something that will loom large if the Retained EU Law Bill, back in the Lords on Thursday, proceeds as drafted. If the DUP is genuinely concerned about different rules applying in Northern Ireland to the rest of the UK, it should also push the UK government for assurances of how it will prevent harmful divergence arising from changes to UK or England regulation if the government
insists on proceeding with the bill.
There is no killer point that anyone has so far produced that justifies the DUP’s Assembly boycott. How they get themselves off the hook is another story.
Former BBC journalist and manager in Belfast, Manchester and London, Editor Spolight; Political Editor BBC NI; Current Affairs Commissioning editor BBC Radio 4; Editor Political and Parliamentary Programmes, BBC Westminster; former London Editor Belfast Telegraph. Hon Senior Research Fellow, The Constitution Unit, Univ Coll. London