United Kingdom Internal Market

– in the House of Commons am 1:53 pm ar 1 Chwefror 2024.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Steven Baker Steven Baker The Minister of State, Northern Ireland Office 1:53, 1 Chwefror 2024

I beg to move,

That the draft Windsor Framework (UK Internal Market and Unfettered Access) Regulations 2024, which were laid before this House on 31 January, be approved.

It is the view of the Government and, I believe, of the overwhelming number of right hon. and hon. Members across the House that the Union ought not be reduced to matters of the law or the constitution alone. Ours is a thriving economic, cultural and political Union whose health is insured, in no small part, by the free flow of trade across it. Enhancing that economic aspect of the Union is the purpose of this second set of regulations before the House today.

The views of businesses and traders on the progress that we have made are also important in the context of today’s debate. I am pleased to confirm that the early reaction from business has been promising. The view of a collaboration of 14 key Northern Ireland industry bodies was clear yesterday in saying that they welcomed the agreement.

The Government are clear that the old protocol created unacceptable barriers within our internal market, and I invite anyone to consider the full implementation of the old protocol against what we have achieved in the Windsor framework. The Windsor framework takes major steps forward, and I acknowledge that this is first and foremost an achievement of the Democratic Unionist party and also a great achievement of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State.

The framework restored the functioning of the UK internal market by ensuring the smooth flow of trade within the UK, and disapplied a range of EU laws, including ensuring that Northern Ireland benefits from the same VAT and alcohol taxes as the rest of the UK. Members of the House can also be encouraged by the smooth functioning of the framework since October 2023, when the first phase of arrangements came on stream, supporting trade between Great Britain and Northern Ireland. I should just say that colleagues did ask me how it was going. I said, “Have you seen any news on it?” Of course, no one has; it has been going very well, and I want to thank and congratulate all those officials here and in Northern Ireland who have made that possible.

These regulations go further in that aim to strengthen our UK internal market now and in the long term. Following the agreement of the Windsor framework, the border target operating model sets out that we will begin phasing in checks and controls for Irish goods and non-qualifying goods moving from the island of Ireland to Great Britain from 31 January—indeed from yesterday. This is a powerful demonstration of Northern Ireland’s integral place in the UK’s internal market, and it rebuts incorrect claims that it is instead a member of the EU single market. The reality is that third country members of the EU single market will now have full third country processes applied, while Northern Ireland’s businesses will have full unfettered access to their most important market in Great Britain.

Photo of Jeffrey M. Donaldson Jeffrey M. Donaldson DUP Westminster Leader

The Minister is absolutely right. Perhaps the most powerful illustration of the change that we have secured is to consider what will happen now on the ferry route between Dublin and Holyhead as a result of these new arrangements. A Northern Ireland haulier using that service will board the ferry, travel to Holyhead, leave the ferry and travel straight out of the port and on to their destination, with no customs procedures and with full unfettered access. In contrast, a southern Irish haulier arriving at Holyhead will be subjected to full UK customs procedures at the port before they can proceed. Does he join me in welcoming Northern Ireland’s restoration fully within the UK internal market?

Photo of Steven Baker Steven Baker The Minister of State, Northern Ireland Office

Yes. The right hon. Gentleman is absolutely right in what he has just set out, and I do join him in that. It is a proud day for me, as it is for him, and I join other Members in congratulating him on his courage in bringing all of us this far.

As a result of these regulations, we now have guarantees for Northern Ireland goods moving to the rest of the UK, via Dublin. This unfettered access is future-proofed, regardless of how rules evolve in either Northern Ireland or Great Britain. These regulations will more squarely focus the benefits of unfettered access on Northern Ireland traders. The regulations tackle avoidance of the rules and ensure that, for agri-food goods to benefit from unfettered access in avoiding sanitary and phytosanitary processes, they must be dispatched from registered Northern Ireland food and feed operators. We will also expressly affirm through these regulations that export procedures will not be applied to goods moving from Northern Ireland to other parts of the UK’s internal market.

Photo of John Redwood John Redwood Ceidwadwyr, Wokingham

It has been said that maybe 80% of goods moving from GB to NI will be able to use the internal market lane. Why will 20% not be able to do so, and why would the UK Government, who I was told were in charge, not want to ensure that practically all goods use the internal market lane?

Photo of Steven Baker Steven Baker The Minister of State, Northern Ireland Office

With great respect to my right hon. Friend, with whom I have gone a very long way in this cause, he might like to revisit the text. The point is that the 80% of goods going on that route are staying in Northern Ireland; they are UK goods. The other 20% are goods that are going on to the European Union. That is the point: 80% is UK internal market trade, and 20% is trade going on to the European Union.

Photo of Steven Baker Steven Baker The Minister of State, Northern Ireland Office

I will. I cannot say that I am astonished; this is the important moment.

Photo of Sammy Wilson Sammy Wilson Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Treasury), Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Work and Pensions), Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Brexit)

Does the Minister accept that all the statistics show that it is not true that 20% of the trade that goes through Northern Ireland goes to the Irish Republic? In fact, it is about 0.1% to 0.4%. Much of that trade, which will go through the red lane, consists of goods going into Northern Ireland, either to warehouses or to manufacturers in Northern Ireland. They might never go near the Irish Republic. They might stay in Northern Ireland, go back to GB, or go to the rest of the world, yet such products will still be subject to checks going into Northern Ireland.

Photo of Steven Baker Steven Baker The Minister of State, Northern Ireland Office

I would not accept that. I am not in a position to set out the statistics, and I do not doubt that the statistics need some work applied to them. It pains me to say this, as I have always regarded the right hon. Gentleman as a great friend—he and I have walked a long way together on this and I have always regarded him as an ideological bedfellow, both on the Union and on Brexit—but as his group leader, Sir Jeffrey M. Donaldson, said earlier, we voted for, and fervently supported, the protocol Bill. We said that we were willing to have a red lane in order to safeguard the legitimate interests of our friends and partners—and family members, as the Irish ambassador Martin Fraser said. This was always a family dispute, and we were always going to get through it.

Our friends in Ireland, and indeed in the EU, have legitimate interests, which we should have the humility to respect. Even if we had acted unilaterally as a single united Parliament, ridden roughshod over any international negotiation and just done what suited ourselves with the protocol Bill, we would have implemented the red lane. I am afraid that I will part company now with anyone who says otherwise. We would rightly have implemented the red lane, even acting unilaterally, out of respect for the legitimate interests of our friends and trading partners.

Photo of Jeffrey M. Donaldson Jeffrey M. Donaldson DUP Westminster Leader

Will the Minister join me in welcoming the announcement on Tuesday of agreement on a joint legal text that will significantly change the status of goods coming from the rest of the world into Great Britain and travelling on to Northern Ireland? The effect of that change, which is part of the arrangements and the published Command Paper, will be that some 4 million goods movements between Great Britain and Northern Ireland will now be moving out of the red lane and into the UK internal market system. That is this party delivering, and securing real change that ensures that more goods flow freely between Great Britain and Northern Ireland, save for those going into the EU or that are at risk of doing so because they are part of a manufacturing process for goods being sold to the EU.

Photo of Steven Baker Steven Baker The Minister of State, Northern Ireland Office

I strongly welcome that intervention. I thought that the right hon. Gentleman was going to mention the draft joint agreement on tariff rate quotas. For a while I was concerned that TRQs needed to be applied to Northern Ireland so that Northern Ireland could share fully in the benefits of free trade agreements with the rest of the world.

I hope to return to this later, but in case I do not have the opportunity to do so, I want to say what an extraordinary situation Northern Ireland is now in. Northern Ireland is not in the single market. I draw everyone’s attention to page 4 of the Command Paper, which sets out checkmarks comparing Northern Ireland with Ireland, as a member of the EU, and with Norway, which is a member of the single market through the European economic area but is not in the customs union or the European Union. Northern Ireland really has the minimum of EU law compatible with unfettered—or privileged, perhaps—goods access to the EU market, and consistent with having an open, infra- structure-free border.

I wonder at people who thought that we could leave the European Union and establish a hard border, or do absolutely nothing about the border. We were always going to leave the European Union and have special arrangements in relation to Northern Ireland. This is a moment of great feeling for me, because before the referendum vote, I and other colleagues set up a committee of Eurosceptics to consider how we might deal with these issues. I confess that we did not have the SPS and customs expertise to proceed. That then became the great story of this battle.

If the United Kingdom had united in accepting the result of the referendum, if this Parliament had united in going forward with resolve to further our own interests as an independent nation state outside the EU, but crucially with the humility to respect the legitimate interests of our friends and partners, and if from the beginning we had had united resolve and clarity of vision, I do not doubt that in a spirit of friendship and good will—the kind that exists today between Ireland and us, and between the European Union and us, thanks to the work of the Secretary of State, the Prime Minister and others—we would have been, as we are now, in a totally transformed position to make our way forward as friends, respectful of their interests and resolved on ours.

That is not what happened. The House does not need me to rehearse it. It has taken eight years of drama for us to arrive at this moment, when we have reduced EU law to this extent and put in place a red lane to protect the legitimate interests of Ireland and the EU. That is something that we should all be very proud of, after everything that we have faced and all the risks that could have put us in a far worse position.

Photo of Paul Girvan Paul Girvan Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Education), Liberal Democrat Lords Spokesperson (Transport), Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Transport)

I totally understand the need for a red lane to ensure that goods going into the Republic of Ireland are checked, but there is a business in Northern Ireland 98% of whose sales are into Northern Ireland. The stuff all comes to it in one container. Maybe 2% of that load might make its way into the Irish Republic as part of a service agreement with another dealer. I am talking about a major firm in my constituency that has an all-Ireland approach. That means that the red lane applies to every single item, even though 98% of its stuff is used in Northern Ireland, Scotland or England. It is a main distributor, and it will end up having to put all its goods through that. A job of work might need to be done to try to ameliorate its problems.

Photo of Steven Baker Steven Baker The Minister of State, Northern Ireland Office

The hon. Gentleman is right that a job of work will need to be done; I assure him that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has just said that of course it does. I am grateful that we will be doing that further work in a spirit of good will and co-operation through the joint committee with the European Union. If the hon. Gentleman drops an email to my Northern Ireland Office address, I shall be glad to visit the firm with him, bringing officials, and we will see whether we can move further to assist it. I need to find out more about its exact circumstances.

My goodness, that was a long series of interventions. This legislation ensures that we can avoid any unnecessary gold-plating in the implementation of new arrangements through new statutory guidance on section 46 of the United Kingdom Internal Market Act 2020, setting out how public authorities should have special regard to Northern Ireland’s place in the UK’s internal market and customs territory, and the need to maintain the free flow of goods from NI to GB. We will take a power through the regulations to issue such statutory guidance, and public authorities will be required to have regard to it. Those changes to the law will help to ensure that public authorities take every proper effort to prevent new barriers to intra-UK trade. In doing so, they will maintain and strengthen the health of the UK internal market in the long term.

Photo of Jim Shannon Jim Shannon Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Human Rights), Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Health)

One issue that greatly vexes those in my party is that farmers in my constituency, and in others, have said that vets now cost even more, as they have to source medicines and devices from an acceptable source. The Command Paper suggests that the issue has not been resolved but will be worked on. Is that a firm demand on the Government, or is it just another working group that will talk about things? My hon. Friend Ian Paisley has been at the fore on this. We need a person on that committee to push things forward. If we have a solution through the committee, we need a timescale for delivery.

Photo of Steven Baker Steven Baker The Minister of State, Northern Ireland Office

We understand that point and we are listening to the hon. Gentleman and others. We are resolute that of course Northern Ireland must have proper access to veterinary medicines, and will be glad to work with him and others. He will appreciate what the priorities are and have been, and we will certainly continue to make pursuing veterinary medicines a high priority. I am personally resolute on the issue and look forward to pursuing it.

The regulations must be seen in the context of the overall package agreed between the Government and the DUP. The passage of these regulations demonstrates the Government’s commitment to taking forward that whole package and to maintaining the participation and trust of the whole community in Northern Ireland’s political processes and the Stormont institutions going forward.

If I may touch on what Colum Eastwood said earlier, I, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and the whole Government are completely committed to the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement in all its dimensions. As I said to one nationalist politician—about a year ago now, if I recall—it is perfectly possible to be a Unionist and support the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement in all its dimensions, just as it is possible to be a nationalist or a republican and support the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement in all its dimensions. It is the beauty and the triumph of the agreement that we can all support it and move forward.

I am trying to say this as gently as possible: I can understand a degree of discomfort from the hon. Gentleman, because this is a big breakthrough for Unionism. A Unionist Conservative Government have agreed to do Unionist things with the Democratic Unionist Party, and that is something I am very proud of. However, that does not in any way diminish our impartiality, or our commitment to governing or seeing to the government of Northern Ireland in a proper manner.

Photo of Steven Baker Steven Baker The Minister of State, Northern Ireland Office

Before I give way to the hon. Gentleman, may I just say that I think, after the experience of the last eight years—perhaps the last 14—I need defer to no one in my vociferous commitment to democratic self-determination.

Photo of Colum Eastwood Colum Eastwood Social Democratic and Labour Party, Foyle

The Minister says he supports the Good Friday agreement in all its parts. Does he support the bit that says that the Government should be rigorously impartial?

Photo of Steven Baker Steven Baker The Minister of State, Northern Ireland Office

Yes, I—[Interruption.] I do not quite hear the comment from the leader of the DUP.

Photo of Steven Baker Steven Baker The Minister of State, Northern Ireland Office

It has long been said that this is the Conservative and Unionist party and we have long been understood to be a Unionist party. This agreement is entirely consistent with both our Unionism and our full respect for all dimensions of the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement. We will continue to govern in a spirit of good will and impartiality.

Photo of Steven Baker Steven Baker The Minister of State, Northern Ireland Office

I will, but after I have given way to my right hon. and learned Friend, I will make progress and finish so that other colleagues can have their say.

Photo of Robert Buckland Robert Buckland Chair, Northern Ireland Affairs Committee, Chair, Northern Ireland Affairs Committee

I have listened carefully to the interventions from Colum Eastwood and the concerns that he and others will have about the scrapping of the legal obligation with regard to the all-island economy. Is the point not that while, as a UK Government, we have to uphold the rules that apply within our United Kingdom and the promotion of our own internal market, that does not detract from the access to the single market that Northern Ireland businesses will continue to enjoy? That is the compromise that has been reached here. Therefore there is not a binary either/or choice; the hon. Gentleman’s concerns can largely be met and continue to be met in a way that is fully in accordance with the Good Friday/Belfast Agreement.

Photo of Steven Baker Steven Baker The Minister of State, Northern Ireland Office

I agree with my right hon. and learned Friend, who demonstrates his expertise.

I look forward as much as anyone to the re-establishment of the Assembly and the Executive, and along with that the re-establishment of the north-south institutions. They are much needed and I look forward to their work. I do not mind admitting that I find myself able to work constructively with politicians of all political parties in Northern Ireland, and I am glad to do so.

Let me return, in concluding, to what is at stake in this process. I firmly believe that all parties in this House and all parties eligible to form part of an Executive want Northern Ireland to work. I have seen what unites political leaders in Northern Ireland: a real determination to make life better for their constituents—and, my goodness, on a wide range of fronts that is necessary—and to allow Northern Ireland to grasp the opportunities of the future—and what opportunities they are. I elaborated on some of the things Northern Ireland has before it right now. If we combine the institutional arrangements before Northern Ireland with the very substantial financial package to transform public services and deal with the public finances, and if Northern Irish politicians reach out and grasp the opportunity now before them, they can make Northern Ireland a beacon to the world—a beacon of prosperity and, I hope, of reconciliation. These regulations are part of that process and I commend them to everyone in the House.

Photo of Hilary Benn Hilary Benn Shadow Secretary of State for Northern Ireland 2:15, 1 Chwefror 2024

I begin by agreeing with the Minister that businesses in Northern Ireland want to make the current and future arrangements work, that they want them to work well and that there is huge potential for the people of Northern Ireland in the economic benefits that its current and future circumstances provide it.

I have some specific points about the regulations— I see the Minister clearly relishes responding to those. Paragraph 81 of the Command Paper states:

“We are now changing arrangements…to ensure…that checks are eliminated save for those conducted by UK authorities needed for the protection of the UK’s internal market on a risk and intelligence basis.

Will the Minister clarify which checks on goods moving from Great Britain to Northern Ireland will be got rid of? Is he referring to identity checks, checks on paperwork or something else? At the moment, about 10% of goods using what is called the green lane—which will become the UK internal market lane—are subject to some checks on paperwork. Will he clarify what will happen to them?

I welcome the amendments to the UK Internal Market Act 2020 provided for in regulation 2. Proposed new section 45A would reaffirm Northern Ireland’s unfettered access to the rest of the internal market and ensure that no new NI-GB checks can be introduced. The regulation also makes provision for the Secretary of State to issue guidance to Departments on how they should carry out their duties under section 46 of the 2020 Act—namely, ensuring that they have special regard to, among other things, Northern Ireland’s status in the UK internal market when they formulate policy. Will the Minister confirm that guidance will soon be forthcoming and share any further details he can at this stage about what that will contain?

I note the changes to the Definition of Qualifying Northern Ireland Goods (EU Exit) Regulations 2020 made by regulation 3, which are intended to prevent Northern Ireland from being used as a back door for EU goods moving into GB and to protect Northern Ireland’s agricultural sector. Ensuring that NI-registered agrifood operators fully benefit from unfettered access is a very positive step and I welcome it. Will the Minister tell the House whether the Government envisage any further changes to the definition of qualifying Northern Ireland goods? I also note the Government’s confirmation in the Command Paper that

“there will be no Border Control Post at Cairnryan.”

That is greatly to be welcomed, but can the Minister say anything further about how checks and formalities on non-qualifying goods that enter GB from Northern Ireland through Cairnryan will work in practice?

Let me turn to some of the other commitments set out in the Command Paper. Will the Minister confirm when he expects the new body announced to promote trade within the UK, InterTrade UK, to become operational, and how it will be overseen?

I welcome the Government’s determination, which has been brought up by a number of Members, to ensure the continued supply of veterinary medicines into Northern Ireland beyond the end of 2025, when the current grace period expires. We all hope that an agreement can be reached with our European partners as soon as possible. I share the view expressed by others in the debate that we had the same problem with human medicines and, in the end, the EU recognised that something had to be done about that. I hope very much that the EU will show the same spirit in approaching this question. The Command Paper, however, says:

“we will if necessary deploy all available flexibilities to safeguard and sustain the supply of veterinary medicines”.

Will the Minister tell the House what those flexibilities are and how they will be applied if we get to that point?

In approving the regulations—which I hope we will do unanimously as we just did with the constitutional set—we will be taking another step closer, in this really important week, to the restoration of power sharing. The people of Northern Ireland, who have been without a Government for so long, may not, in all fairness, be studying the regulations in the way that we are doing today, but they very clearly understand why they are essential to getting their Government back. Once we have done our bit today, it will be over to the politicians of Northern Ireland, and I am sure that every single Member of the House wishes them the very best in the task that lies ahead of them.

Photo of Theresa Villiers Theresa Villiers Ceidwadwyr, Chipping Barnet 2:20, 1 Chwefror 2024

The important statutory instruments that we are discussing today are the latest in the process of implementing the result of the 2016 referendum to leave the European Union. They may not have attracted the same volume, attention or emotion as those endless meaningful votes in 2018 and 2019, but they are no less important. This has been a long and difficult process that has divided the nation, but the end goal of restoring our status as an independent, self-governing democracy has been a prize worth fighting for.

For centuries, Members of this Parliament strived to ensure that we would be governed only by the laws made by our own elected representatives, and that is what Brexit seeks to deliver, but we all know that the job is not yet finished when it comes to Northern Ireland, so I pay tribute to the Secretary of State, the Minister and the DUP for their work and determination to tackle the problems with the Windsor framework and secure Northern Ireland’s place in the UK internal market. I very much welcome the advances being made towards the restoration of power sharing and devolved government, and I accept that the statutory instruments are an important part of enabling that to happen because of the significant changes they contain.

Of course, I completely understand the DUP’s concerns regarding the Northern Ireland protocol and the Windsor framework. We must do all we can to minimise trade frictions between Britain and Northern Ireland. The agreement on the Windsor framework started that process—for example, by making the movement of medicines, food and items for retail sale much less problematic. I believe that further improvements will be delivered by the deal that we are looking at today, which will further reduce checks and inspections. My concern is that the central problem remains that Northern Ireland is subject to single market rules without having a vote on them. The instruments we are considering do not change that, although I welcome the important further clarity and safeguards offered on the Stormont brake.

Dialogue with the EU has to continue so that ultimately we can move to a situation in which only items destined for export to the south are subject to EU rules and regulations in Northern Ireland. With pragmatism and advancing border technology, that should be possible. It is important that we continue to strive to bring that about, so that we can restore democratic control over making our laws in every part of our United Kingdom and Brexit is fully delivered for Northern Ireland, as it is for Great Britain.

We also need assurances from Ministers that nothing in regulation 3 of the Windsor Framework (Constitutional Status of Northern Ireland) Regulations will prevent regulatory divergence between Britain and the EU. Of course, any responsible Minister must consider the impact of his or her decisions on the unity of the UK and its single market, but new screening obligations must not be allowed to create a chilling effect, which would stop us charting our own course with regard to how we regulate our economy. Taking back control of making our own laws was a key reason that people voted to leave the EU. We have yet to fully deliver that for Northern Ireland and, as I have said, we must go further on it in the future.

Photo of Gavin Robinson Gavin Robinson Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Home Affairs), Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Defence)

I am grateful to the right hon. Lady for the conversations we have had on this specific point. She is right to highlight her concerns and to seek assurances from the Government, but she does accept that it is right to get assessments; that it is right that Governments should always be going through the process of assessing the impact of their decisions on every part of this United Kingdom; and that there is nothing wrong with transparency, with knowing any possible consequence, nor—if that potential consequence is negative—with all of us determinedly trying to ensure that it does not arise.

Photo of Theresa Villiers Theresa Villiers Ceidwadwyr, Chipping Barnet

I thank the hon. Gentleman for that intervention; the dialogue that he and I have had over recent days has done a lot to reassure me that this package is about transparency, not a block on divergence. I hope the Minister will confirm that in his closing remarks, because divergence is important. The regulatory reform made possible by exit is, I think, crucial for our future economic success. By making us more competitive, modernising regulation is a key means to boost growth, raise living standards and reduce taxes.

In conclusion, it took courage and determination from Northern Ireland’s elected leaders to secure peace after three horrific decades of terrorist violence. Asking very different parties to sit in a permanent mandatory coalition was never going to be easy, not least because some of the divisions between them date back decades, or even centuries. That devolved government has worked for so much of the past quarter of a century is a testament to Northern Ireland’s leaders and their determination to make the ’98 settlement work—to make Northern Ireland work. I pay particular tribute to the DUP in that regard: for so often it is they who have found ways to fix problems and keep devolved government going, while always safeguarding Unionist principles.

We in this House must recognise the significant problems caused by the Northern Ireland protocol and the Windsor framework—including, of course, what the courts have described as a “subjugation” of article 6 of the Act of Union of 1801—but, as we have heard today, we are making real progress on tackling these issues by setting out in the statutory instruments stronger legal protections for access to the GB market. I also think that the historical perspective, as set out in annexe A of the Command Paper, is something that everyone should read. We are making progress on remedying these problems.

It was a privilege for me, as Secretary of State for just under four years, to play a part in Northern Ireland’s inspiring story, and I truly hope that a way can now be found for its devolved institutions to resume their work of taking Northern Ireland forward to further success and an even brighter future.

Several hon. Members:


Photo of Rosie Winterton Rosie Winterton Deputy Speaker (First Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means)

I am trying to get an idea of how many Members wish to speak. Some who had indicated that they wanted to speak are now not standing—fine. That is very helpful. I call the SNP spokesperson.

Photo of Richard Thomson Richard Thomson Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Wales), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Northern Ireland), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Trade), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Business) 2:27, 1 Chwefror 2024

We on the SNP Benches start from the principle that the fewer impediments there are to trade between all parts of the UK, and between the UK and the EU, the better. That is something that clearly took a step backwards with Brexit, so we very much welcome the fact that the Northern Ireland situation at least has been largely addressed by the regulations before us, which we will support. With that dual market access, Northern Ireland will clearly now enjoy a highly advantageous situation relative to other parts of the UK, and although we very much support this SI, my hope is that in time the people of England, Wales and Scotland will wish to rediscover that advantageous situation for themselves, and ultimately render the content of this SI obsolete.

Finally, it would be remiss of me not to miss the opportunity to tweak the Minister’s tail slightly, given that he says he is an enthusiast for democratic self-determination—so am I, and I look forward to a similar stout defence from the Minister of that right to democratic self-determination in other parts of the Union in the future.

Photo of Robin Millar Robin Millar Ceidwadwyr, Aberconwy 2:29, 1 Chwefror 2024

It is a privilege to speak in the debate and to follow the many hon. and right hon. Members who have spoken with great wisdom, knowledge and personal experience on these matters.

It is informative to apply to article 6 of the Acts of Union the four tests for impact that were developed by Justice Colton—specifically, Northern Ireland’s compliance with certain EU standards; the bureaucracy and associated costs of complying with customs documentation and checks; the payment of tariffs for goods at risk; and the unfettered access enjoyed by Northern Ireland businesses to the EU single market. I question the representation of the Supreme Court judgment as set out in paragraph 14 of annex A to the Command Paper, but those were matters for the last debate, and there is not time to make my point.

The Windsor framework removed many EU standards for GB-produced consumer goods destined for Northern Ireland. That does not change under the SI before us. The second test—on bureaucracy and compliance costs associated with customs—should concern us, as the protocol saw the diversion of £1.2 billion-worth of goods in supply chains from GB to the Republic. Indeed, logistics businesses testified to the Lords Windsor Framework Sub-Committee on the complexity of managing mixed loads, with two large haulage firms stating that groupage had been “forgotten” in the framework.

Expert analysis has also suggested that 75% of output in non-exempted manufacturing sectors, including electronics, engineering and chemicals, comes from firms with turnover above £2 million, which will see their GB supply chains stuck in the red lane or diverted abroad. The Command Paper published yesterday contains a pledge—a UK internal market guarantee—that no more than 20% of goods will flow through the red lane. In practice, that creates a monitoring panel to report on any failures to hit the target and make recommendations to which the Government must respond. That is admirable but does not represent a material change to existing customs requirements under the protocol. It is also worth noting that, worryingly, that could be achieved simply by diverting supply chains away from GB towards the EU, as affected GB businesses cut Northern Ireland out of their distribution chains.

The regulations before us create important easements for Northern Ireland to GB trade, including a guarantee that future divergence will not impact the ability of Northern Ireland traders to freely access GB markets. That is welcome, but the bulk of distribution has always pertained to GB-to-NI trade, not the reverse. As is also noted in the Command Paper, although technology may ease compliance costs in the medium to long-term, those costs will still exist. Shipping from London to Belfast will continue to require significantly more bureaucracy than shipping to York or Edinburgh. The third test, on tariffs, is not covered and does not apply.

Finally, let me turn to Northern Ireland’s preferential access to the EU single market. I must emphasise that the clear trade-off that we have chosen to give Northern Ireland unregulated access to EU supply chains comes at the cost of complicating access to GB ones, despite the fact that Northern Ireland imports from GB are two and a half times those from the EU and six times those from Ireland. Whatever easements we offer, that has created a customs, judicial and legislative border across the kingdom, and it is hurting our businesses. The fact that Northern Ireland continues to have preferential access to the EU single market is unarguable, but it should not be misunderstood. Again, I find that final test informative.

Nothing I say today is intended to diminish the achievement of the deal when it comes to material gain for Northern Ireland. Although I welcome the elements within the new deal, which undoubtedly offer increased safeguards for the Union, it does not change the fact of EU law’s application to Northern Ireland, additional bureaucracy for GB businesses attempting to access Northern Ireland, the existence of tariffs, or Northern Ireland’s de facto placement within the EU single market. Once again, the qualities and effectiveness of this deal will emerge over the months and years ahead, I am sure, and through the scrutiny that must come from this place. I will continue to offer my support in those months and years ahead.

Photo of Rosie Winterton Rosie Winterton Deputy Speaker (First Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means)

Order. I believe the hon. Gentleman has finished his speech. I call Gavin Robinson.

Photo of Gavin Robinson Gavin Robinson Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Home Affairs), Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Defence) 2:33, 1 Chwefror 2024

Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker. I would be very happy to let my colleague in if she wishes to respond to Robin Millar.

Photo of Carla Lockhart Carla Lockhart DUP, Upper Bann

I think it needs to be reiterated that if the people of England, Wales or Scotland woke up tomorrow morning and found that they would have to stand for election to try to stop laws in 300 areas being imposed on them by a foreign Parliament, it would be outrageous and seen as outrageous by this House. That point should not be lost on this gathering.

Photo of Gavin Robinson Gavin Robinson Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Home Affairs), Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Defence)

I am glad that I allowed my hon. Friend to make that intervention even though the hon. Member for Aberconwy had brought his contribution to a conclusion, because that is an important point.

In the context of the UK Parliament, I am proud to stand in support of the SI before us, and to recognise the efforts over the past number of years to deal with what was imposed on us and the people of Northern Ireland by colleagues in this Chamber and by a Government, arising from the arrangements reached in the withdrawal agreement and the Northern Ireland protocol. A series of measures were taken designed to encourage those who did not overly concern themselves with the position in which they had left Northern Ireland, to redress the harm done.

Today is, in many ways, a culmination of part of that process, but not an end to it. For the past number of years, my colleagues and I have stood firm in this regard. We have taken a principled position about the imposition of the Northern Ireland protocol and the harm it has caused our country and our place within our country, and have worked determinedly for solutions.

Photo of Paul Girvan Paul Girvan Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Education), Liberal Democrat Lords Spokesperson (Transport), Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Transport)

On the damage done, and the diversion of trade between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, many suppliers have found that it was easier to get products from the Republic of Ireland because UK suppliers were fed up with the bureaucracy they were encountering. A job of work needs to be done with UK suppliers to ensure they can bring back that trade.

Photo of Gavin Robinson Gavin Robinson Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Home Affairs), Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Defence)

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. Intertrade UK, a body about which Members will read in The Command Paper, will have an important job of work to do in that regard.

Back in October 2022, whenever we were under significant pressure to move and to accept our lot, my parliamentary predecessor, former First Minister of Northern Ireland and my mentor, Peter Robinson, issued a powerful post reminding colleagues and those of us who were under pressure that we had not come this far only to come this far. He was encouraging us to stand, and we stood our ground not only then but throughout all the hype and all the pressure associated with the publication of the Windsor framework. The three fundamentals that are expanded on in our seven tests were to repair the constitutional harm imposed upon our country, to remove the democratic deficit at the heart of the arrangements for parliamentarians in our Northern Ireland Assembly, and to reduce the friction on trade, and remove it in respect of GB-to-NI goods that are staying in the UK internal market.

That has been our quest. On the constitutional harm, I am delighted that, as a consequence of our party’s resolution, determination and stand over the past number of years, the leader of my party, my right hon. Friend Sir Jeffrey M. Donaldson and this Parliament were able to speak to and agree the constitutional SI that just passed the House. That is an important milestone.

On the democratic deficit, let us not forget that what has been achieved in repairing and removing the democratic deficit, and giving Stormont a say in the rules that apply to Northern Ireland, did not just come by way of change in this place. The agreement of that resolution required a structural amendment to the Northern Ireland protocol, and article 13.3 and 13.4 of that protocol was amended. The Windsor framework did that, and, in the constitutional SI that we just passed, we have strengthened further still the legislative provisions around the operation of that process. I say that to indicate that what we were told could not happen—changes to these texts, these tablets of stone—has happened.

These regulations are an important document not in and of themselves but as part of a much wider package that has been secured, and that was published in yesterday’s Command Paper. That wider package has import in and of itself, and today’s proceedings have an importance attached to the prospect of a return to devolution. Our party is a devolutionist party. We believe in locally elected representatives in Northern Ireland having the ability to shape our future within the United Kingdom. The cost and consequence of not recognising the opportunity before us, of not seeing the gains that have been achieved, would be too damaging for Unionism and too damaging for the future of our Province within this country.

Neither this SI nor the SI we have just passed is the sum total of what we have agreed. I listened to the hon. Member for Aberconwy say that there is no issue for goods moving from Northern Ireland to Great Britain. He believes that because it has been said so many times, but it is not so. From 2017, successive Conservative Governments have always dismissed the fact that traders trade in both directions, and they have always answered through one prism, never recognising that we should be equally free to buy and sell in the marketplace.

Saying that trade has not been a concern is to belie the fact that, as Unionists within this country, we had a situation in which UK trade deals did not automatically apply to us in Northern Ireland. Consumers in Northern Ireland could not benefit from those trade deals.

Although it is not in this SI, it is worth mentioning that on Tuesday evening, as a consequence of our discussions and negotiations with the Government, and as published in the Command Paper, we saw the publication of 60 pages of legislative text that will see products from the rest of the world that are freely available in the rest of the United Kingdom now be available in Northern Ireland. Those products will be taken from the red lane into the UK internal market system.

Some 13,000 tonnes of products will be available that were not available until we secured the concession that recognises our rightful place within this United Kingdom and our access to UK free trade deals. That important step means that 14 million items will move from the red lane into the UK internal market system, and it will mean that free trade deals benefit the people of Northern Ireland in a way that they previously could not, in a way that they did not and in a way that was never previously considered. That progress has been secured by this agreement.

The House will also recognise that, as outlined not in this SI but in the deal itself, primary legislation will be introduced to remove what I can describe only as the legislative litter retained from the 2017 joint report on the fictional all-Ireland economy, which does not exist. The reason why goods are labelled “not for sale in the EU” when moving from GB to NI is because we have a separate and distinct arrangement. We are not the same as the rest of the island of Ireland. We are part of the United Kingdom, and this deal reinforces that.

Photo of Stephen Farry Stephen Farry Alliance, North Down

I appreciate the hon. Gentleman’s concerns about the phrase “all-Ireland economy,” but does he not recognise that a number of companies based in Northern Ireland essentially operate on an all-Ireland basis? His party’s leader, Sir Jeffrey M. Donaldson, has highlighted the obvious example of Coca-Cola, which is based in Lisburn and serves the entire island.

Photo of Gavin Robinson Gavin Robinson Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Home Affairs), Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Defence)

It is always good to hear from the hon. Gentleman, but he knowingly confuses my point. He knows that Coca-Cola being situated in Northern Ireland and sending its products throughout the island of Ireland is a point that recognises our access to the single market, with which I take no issue—I see it as a practical benefit. He also ignores the fact that, in Northern Ireland, Coca-Cola is able to manage different tax regimes, different currencies and many different aspects which, in and of themselves, clearly demonstrate that there is no all-Ireland economy. I am not concerned about there being one, but I am concerned that there is one remaining reference in legislation that is totally irrelevant and has no force in effect but requires Ministers to have due regard to something that does not exist, and is part of this agreement.

The Northern Ireland Protocol Bill accepted red and green lanes but, under this new arrangement, there is no need for a lane to deal with goods coming from GB to NI and staying within the United Kingdom internal market. The checks required by the Windsor framework— tapering down to 5% by 2025 but, in real terms, 100% on some fruit and veg, 30% on meat, fish and poultry, and 15% on dairy—are gone, save for the ordinary checks we have in relation to smuggling and criminality. Those changes can only be achieved by opening the EU text and securing change in a way that we were told could not happen, that we were told was mythical or wishful thinking.

Madam Deputy Speaker, you have been very gracious in letting me speak around the SI up until this point. In the United Kingdom Internal Market Act 2020, the Government proposed many things that were to be of benefit to us, but they dropped them. They had our support in protecting our place within the UK internal market, but they dropped the proposals. This deal brings them back again, but it also goes further.

Other Members have commented on this, but proposed new section 45A(2) of the 2020 Act says:

“Accordingly, this Act—

(a) prohibits the application of export procedures to goods removed from Northern Ireland to Great Britain”.

Whether or not Members think it has practical import, I can say as a Unionist that it has principled import. There should be no exit procedures. The exit procedures under the Northern Ireland protocol have caused us so much harm, and they have gone. That is important for all of us.

Subsection (3) says:

“In particular, that permanent unfettered access is achieved in relation to qualifying Northern Ireland goods through (among other things)—

(a) the mutual recognition”.

Mutual recognition has been discussed many times in this House, and it is an aspiration we all share. We were told it was mythical. We were told it was a unicorn project. We were told that it could never be achieved because the EU would never agree, yet in this SI, we have mutual recognition—something that could do away with the checks, the impediments and the impositions that were put upon us by this Parliament and resolve the barriers to trade within our own country. Something that had consequences for the principled and political integrity of our country is now gone, because we have achieved mutual recognition.

Why is that important? It is important in the context of the debate we have been having across the House. I am proud that we have put in measures about internal market impact assessments that probably seem a little boring, methodical and bureaucratic, but even if we go through the process of getting civil servants and policy- makers to understand that any choice they make could have an impact on the UK internal market and Northern Ireland’s place within it, to understand what those impacts are and seek to address them, and even if the conclusion is that parliamentary sovereignty reigns and the principal policymakers in this place decide that they will diverge in policy terms from where we are in Northern Ireland, we have a goods guarantee. Nobody on the DUP Benches is going to upset parliamentary sovereignty, but we will protect our place within this United Kingdom.

The goods guarantee—the mutual recognition that says that, irrespective of the standards that apply in either part of this country, our goods from Northern Ireland will always be welcome in the rest of the United Kingdom—is a gain. It is a gain even when others did not see it as a problem, because it future-proofs our place within this United Kingdom. It is something that was absent from the Windsor framework. It has been a long quest for all of those who have walked hard yards to resolve some of the issues that have arisen from our choice to leave the European Union, but our determination on those issues has never wavered, and a resolution has been achieved.

New section 46A of the United Kingdom Internal Market Act deals with indirect access. In that section, our Government are now saying very clearly that there can be no administrative checks, controls and processes, not only for direct movements between one part of our country and another but for indirect movements—direct movements, but for the fact that the goods have merely passed through the Republic of Ireland. That crystallises yet again the fact that we are not in an all-Ireland economy: we are different from our near neighbours. Legislatively, Northern Ireland hauliers and Northern Ireland businesses that are sending goods from Northern Ireland to Great Britain will be able to do so in an unfettered way, even if they travel through a foreign country. Those controls will not apply to them.

Those achievements are worth focusing on, because we have been trying to resolve the unresolvable—to get focus on places where attention had moved elsewhere. It has taken much longer than we would have liked. I am sure that many Members on other Benches would have preferred the process to end a lot sooner as well, if only we had agreed to less, but we were not prepared to do so. The Windsor framework marked progress, but we said that there were unresolved issues: not only the potential for future divergence in GB that would put us in a difficult position, or gains that were offered in the Northern Ireland Protocol Bill or, indeed, the United Kingdom Internal Market Act that were ultimately dropped—which we have now brought back and secured, and this Parliament is agreeing to—but resolving the unresolvable in a way that will have practical application for Northern Ireland, and for our place within this United Kingdom, now and for a long time to come.

Photo of Rosie Winterton Rosie Winterton Deputy Speaker (First Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means)

I have three more Members wishing to speak. I want to bring the Minister in at 3.18 pm, so perhaps people could bear that in mind.

Photo of Julian Smith Julian Smith Ceidwadwyr, Skipton and Ripon 2:52, 1 Chwefror 2024

Again, I pay tribute to my right hon. Friend Chris Heaton-Harris, the Prime Minister, all of the Northern Ireland parties and, most importantly, the DUP for this negotiation, and I thank the Opposition for their support. I note that this instrument, like the previous one, is liable not to go to a vote, and that there will again be total unanimity across this House. It is really important that we continue to make that point.

I know that the DUP was very concerned that in 2020 measures were dropped from the United Kingdom Internal Market Bill, and I am delighted to see those protections returned. This instrument, like the previous one, emphasises how the DUP has negotiated all the detailed elements that Gavin Robinson has just outlined, compared with a blank sheet from those who are currently making arguments against the DUP’s acceptance of this deal.

Photo of Jeffrey M. Donaldson Jeffrey M. Donaldson DUP Westminster Leader

I thank the right hon. Member for his work in trying to move things forward. On the very point he has just made, does he agree with me that it was due to the tenacity of my colleagues and me in not giving up when, in 2020, those clauses were dropped? We persevered and we kept pressing—when others gave up, this party kept at it—and now we see the fruits of our labours with the insertion into the United Kingdom Internal Market Act of key clauses that protect our unfettered access to the United Kingdom and its internal market.

Photo of Julian Smith Julian Smith Ceidwadwyr, Skipton and Ripon

I wholeheartedly agree with the leader of the DUP. This negotiation, as I have observed, has involved hours and hours from the negotiating team, from my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and from the Prime Minister’s team. It has been dogged and ongoing, and it has been hours of work. I observe some of the debate in Northern Ireland and some of the criticism, but I look at the lists of improvements that have been won, and I again pay tribute to those improvements.

This statutory instrument speaks to a broader point in Northern Ireland, which is the economy and the opportunity for economic improvement. Before talking briefly about that, I would like to pay tribute to the business groups in Northern Ireland that have shown great patience since the Brexit vote on how to resolve many of the practical issues they were faced with. In the Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the CBI, the Institute of Directors, the Federation of Small Businesses and the Northern Ireland Business Brexit Working Group, many people have been working very hard to seek resolution, and I know that each and every one of those organisations will be pleased with what they have seen this week.

There are huge opportunities in Northern Ireland for the defence sector, the cyber sector, agriculture, pharma and more. Whether it is meat exporters who will be welcoming the tariff deal, the many businesses working with the US special envoy this week in Northern Ireland, or the various economic and inward investment seminars and activities my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has been organising, all of these businesses will benefit, and they will create jobs and opportunities for families, young people and citizens in the future.

I would like to move away slightly from the statutory instrument, and go back to the Command Paper to reference the paragraph on corporation tax. What has been negotiated by the Government and the DUP on that front is to begin a working group between the Treasury here in London and the Department of Finance in the Northern Ireland Executive to look at the competitiveness of Northern Ireland’s corporation tax, and that gives Northern Ireland an additional opportunity to maximise its already unique position in the United Kingdom.

Photo of Jeffrey M. Donaldson Jeffrey M. Donaldson DUP Westminster Leader

I draw the right hon. Member’s attention to a further element in the Command Paper that proposes a special investment zone for Northern Ireland, which will deliver an extra £150 million of funding to drive growth in our economy. Does he join me in welcoming the interest of the Secretary of State for Scotland in working with us to ensure that the ports of Cairnryan and Stranraer are included, so that the links with Larne and Belfast are strengthened, and the Union connectivity that binds our country together is valued, invested in and expanded for the future?

Photo of Julian Smith Julian Smith Ceidwadwyr, Skipton and Ripon

I absolutely agree with those comments. We see that in the Command Paper with Intertrade UK, which I hope will have excellent subject matter experts to build trade opportunities further, as well as with the East-West Council and various other groups.

The Command Paper is much more than a constitutional or legislative document. It is the basis for building on the already extremely exciting opportunity that Northern Ireland has to conquer in multiple sectors of the economy. I presume we will now be moving on to looking at talent and skills, and at how people from poorer nationalist areas or poorer Unionist areas can maximise these economic opportunities. This document is the basis for moving forward for Northern Ireland under a new devolved Executive, and for Northern Ireland knocking the lights out in various sectors of the economy in years to come.

Photo of Rosie Winterton Rosie Winterton Deputy Speaker (First Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means)

There are two speakers left, and I suggest they speak for nine minutes each.

Photo of Jim Shannon Jim Shannon Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Human Rights), Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Health) 2:59, 1 Chwefror 2024

It is a pleasure to speak in this debate, and I will adhere, as I always do, to your timescale, Madam Deputy Speaker; I know my right hon. Friend Sammy Wilson has a lot to say as well.

The combined years of negotiation have to be recognised. There has been movement, and even the harshest critics must be fair and admit to the huge steps that have been taken. It is right and proper that I thank those in the DUP, notably my leader, my right hon. Friend Sir Jeffrey M. Donaldson, and deputy leader, my hon. Friend Gavin Robinson, sitting on the right and left of me here in this Chamber. I also thank the others who have contributed, such as the Secretary of State and others with influence: Julian Smith has been a great advocate for Unionism in Northern Ireland, and we thank him for that. So I am grateful to all who have done the bulk of the work by tirelessly advocating for change. They have secured a deal, and I am thankful for that.

However, I must be clear: this is not the fulfilment of a wish list. It does not go as far as I would wish and I would like to see more, but how can I change that? I change that from in this House; I change it in this Westminster House of Commons. That is how we do it—as a democrat, that is how I believe we must do it. That is a point worth making.

I am an active constituency MP, as we all are—I am not saying that no other Members are—and I have travelled the length and breadth of my constituency discussing this matter. I met with Orange brethren and sisters in January this year, and did the same last year. I met with teachers, NHS workers, individuals and community groups. I took time on the doorsteps to explain to my people why we had to take the necessary step of bringing down Stormont, to try to provide the justification for staying out of Stormont at times when money was being withheld and every threat other than physical was being lodged at us. I took the time to attempt to tell people that it was not a matter of us being thran, to use an Ulster Scotsism, but it was a matter of us taking seriously the economic and constitutional position of Northern Ireland within the Union.

That is what my colleagues have done for two years, and I have stood firm on this and on the seven tests that the DUP outlined. Now today we see the legislation that I and others called for—constitutional legislation to secure our place within the internal market—and I retain some level of concern and press the Government for more assurances. Ministers would expect me to do that.

It was highlighted yesterday that the European laws may be overruled by Government, but the wording suggests that they may also be accepted, allowing Northern Ireland to diverge. All the people I represent seek an assurance from our Government that this deal and the legislation before this House will do exactly what it says on the tin and secure our place in the internal market—in fact restore and then secure our place.

I say gently to my colleagues on the Treasury Bench and across the Chamber that there is a lack of trust, which boils down to the treatment of Unionists by ruling Governments in this House for decades. The Secretary of State kindly took that on board when I raised it in an intervention. I look forward to that trust being built upon in a way that enables us to secure the trust of the people I am privileged to represent in this House.

The Irish Government have no issues with supporting calls for reunification, yet our Government Ministers have been afraid to appear unbiased. Government need to be unbiased. The opinion of this House on our sovereignty should be clear. My party leader sought not simply to secure legislation and change for this to take place now, but to future-proof it. In other words, we are not just dealing with it for today: we are dealing with it for the future of my children and grandchildren and those I probably will not be here for. Many of the people I represent have stated their lack of trust in a Government who told us they had given us the best they could and then did not deliver.

Photo of Carla Lockhart Carla Lockhart DUP, Upper Bann

My hon. Friend makes a powerful point about trust. The way the people of Northern Ireland have been treated over the past number of years by this Government is terrible. We need only look at the abortion laws that were forced on the people of Northern Ireland and the relationship and sexuality education change brought into Northern Ireland. So trust is at an all-time low, and there are people in my constituency who look at this not through rose-tinted glasses but with the view that we need to go much further and do more.

Photo of Jim Shannon Jim Shannon Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Human Rights), Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Health)

My hon. Friend clearly illustrates the distrust. To be fair, the Minister of State and Secretary of State have recognised that and know the job they have to do. It is clear why some of my electorate question not the dealings of the DUP, but rather those of the Government, wondering whether this deal is deliverable and will stand the test of time. Under the methodology before us, the Government must take a step, and only when they take that step can we then make an assessment of whether the deal is deliverable and will stand the test of time. That is what the issue boils down to, and it is why I express concerns. There is a huge lack of trust, and that has spilled over to many being unable to accept the spirit of the deal, and in all honesty—I say this respectfully—I fully understand the distrust.

Just to give the House one quick example, on Tuesday morning I had the opportunity to look over the deal. A gentleman has been in touch not just with me, but with my hon. Friends on these Benches. He said, “Jim, I’m going to test this out to see if the paperwork is less.” That was Tuesday morning. He came back to me Tuesday night, and he sent me a text today, which I think others may have had, to say that for the 251 products that had each needed 300 pages of paperwork, the paperwork was away. He also told me that the pet foods that he could not get, he will be able to get in three weeks’ time. That has to be progress. Why did that happen? It happened because of some of the things that have been done here.

I took the opportunity to speak to businesses and to the farmers. Farmers and their union have told me that as far as they are concerned, they see progress on machinery, tractors and vehicles. In an intervention on the Minister earlier, I mentioned the importance of having a veterinary committee. I make a plug for my hon. Friend Ian Paisley to be a member of that, because his influence in that area will be critical. He has done the spadework, and he seems to me to be the right man to be in there to fight for us.

My electorate want their representatives back to Stormont, but not at any price. Rather than the spirit of Chamberlain’s peace at any price, which emboldened our enemy, they hold to the mantra of Churchill that we will fight them on the beaches, and how true that is. We have sought to secure the internal market, but reading the SI makes it clear that a lot of interpretation is in the hands of the sitting Government. My constituents are desperate to get the billions that have been wilfully withheld. I said that with great respect to the Secretary of State last week. Those awaiting treatment on the NHS list deserve funding to reduce their time in pain. The bus drivers standing a few yards down from my constituency office in the freezing cold deserve a pay raise. The children with special needs deserve the security of knowing that their day centre will remain open and not close due to insufficient funding.

All those people deserve those things, whether or not this deal is struck, but we also deserve the truth of who we are in the light of the legislation. Are we a casual member—[Interruption.] I will finish soon, Madam Deputy Speaker; I am rushing quickly to meet your timing. Are we a casual member of the UK, with the EU to have a continuing say on laws and the recognition of status, or do we have full UK membership, with the benefits and security of every other part of the UK? The deal has been hard fought for and seeks to address that, but the real power to assure us lies in this House, with the Ministers and the Government. At home, people are urging us to keep our word, and I agree we must, but we can do so only if the Government in this place also keep their word. Northern Ireland deserves our place in the UK, and my party leadership has fought hard for it. The question is simple, and so is the answer I seek: are we British in law, in economics and in parity, or are we not? Speak the word today and ensure that my Government and Ministers here keep it tomorrow.

Photo of Sammy Wilson Sammy Wilson Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Treasury), Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Work and Pensions), Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Brexit) 3:08, 1 Chwefror 2024

I will not go over the wide range of what is in the Command Paper or the SI, but will focus on some particular points in the SI. It is well known that I do not support this deal or agreement, and I have given reasons why not. It is important that we have the opportunity to examine the detail of it, and the way that this legislation has been hurried through today has not allowed that examination. That is one reason why I will focus just on one particular aspect of it.

When my hon. Friend Gavin Robinson was speaking, he talked about the need to get rid of the debris or litter that was still around. The first point I want to make—perhaps the Minister can answer this in summing up—is that a lot of legislative litter is still around as a result of the arrangements put in place for the red lane and the green lane. We have statutory instruments on which I have spoken in Committee on a number of occasions, and EU regulations, including regulation 2023/1231, which gives the EU the right to make the final decision to suspend goods going through the green lane—and, I suspect, the internal market lane —and make the red lane the default position. I wonder when we will see the removal of all the infrastructure around the previous arrangements in the protocol and the Windsor framework. That would indicate that the UK Government were totally in command of goods flowing into Northern Ireland, rather than, as the EU legislation and indeed the withdrawal agreement state at present, the EU having the final say.

Secondly, my hon. Friend indicated that the movement of goods between Northern Ireland and GB was an issue of concern. It is, and indeed it is likely to be an issue of concern in the future, especially since the Windsor Framework (Constitutional Status of Northern Ireland) Regulations 2024 make it clear that legislation could be introduced in the House that would impact on trade between Northern Ireland and GB—for example, if the Government decide to change some retained EU law. The only assurance given is that a Minister would have to make an assessment of the impact and report it to the House. But at the end of the day—this is clear in proposed new section 13C of the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018—he could make a decision to proceed nevertheless, even though that would likely have an impact on trade.

EU law could be another reason for divergence. We could find decisions made or practices allowed in the EU that put the GB market at risk. That is why we will be introducing the border operating model. The danger is that Northern Ireland goods could get caught in that. I imagine hearing people, including the Minister, saying, “But the legislation prevents that.” It does—on the face of it, we cannot have any border checks for what are called Northern Ireland qualifying goods going into GB. Indeed, local authorities will be informed that trade cannot be restricted, that no barriers can be put up to that trade and that Northern Ireland qualifying goods should have free access. Of course, all the export declarations previously required are to be dropped. However, perhaps the Minister can tell us what is meant in proposed new section 45B of the UK Internal Market Act 2020, which indicates that if goods fall into one of five categories, they will require export declarations.

Leaving that aside, let us look at the situation—actually, it is provided for in this legislation—whereby it is quite clear that the freedoms given for Northern Ireland qualifying goods to sail through into GB are being abused by exporters from the Republic, who bring goods through Northern Ireland and declare them as qualifying goods. By the way, it appears that no evidence has to be given; it will simply be taken on trust when goods are declared to be qualifying goods. I see the Minister is nodding.

Photo of Sammy Wilson Sammy Wilson Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Treasury), Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Work and Pensions), Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Brexit)

Perhaps the Minister can tell us what proof companies will have to give and how onerous that proof will be. What will happen where it becomes clear that there is abuse in goods moving through Northern Ireland into GB? It appears—again, if I am misreading this, perhaps the Minister can explain it to me—that proposed new section 45C indicates that guidance will be given to local authorities, probably through bodies and so on, as to what needs to be done to keep the free flow of goods between Northern Ireland and GB, but proposed new section 46A states:

“The Secretary of State may revise or revoke (in whole or in part) any guidance issued under this section.”

In what circumstances would that guidance be given? If it were given, what would the impact be on the free flow of goods from Northern Ireland to GB, which is more than 60% of our market? It is about those details.

When we have this kind of seal of an agreement, with all the wide-ranging and broad-brush aspects, we sometimes find that when we get down to the detail it falls apart, as happened in the Windsor framework—let us not forget that it fell apart within about two days of the Prime Minister giving the assurances. It is important that we understand all the various scenarios that are being painted in such a detailed SI as this.

First, will the Minister give us an assurance about what is happening to the green lane infrastructure—will the SIs and the EU regulations be removed, or will they stay in place, as part of the Windsor framework, the protocol and the withdrawal agreement? Secondly, what are the five categories of goods that will require export declarations? People need to know. Thirdly, when it comes to the goods flowing into GB, under what circumstances will the border operating model be applied to them? The final point I want to make is this—

Photo of Sammy Wilson Sammy Wilson Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Treasury), Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Work and Pensions), Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Brexit)

I only have one minute left. We are told in paragraph 100 of the Command Paper that for goods going through the green lane, some declarations of “standard commercial information” will be required. Perhaps the Minister could tell us what standard commercial information companies will be continue to be required to supply, even under the agreement.

Photo of Steven Baker Steven Baker The Minister of State, Northern Ireland Office 3:17, 1 Chwefror 2024

Time is short, but I will do my level best to answer as many questions as I can. It has been a very interesting debate.

Hilary Benn asked me which checks will be eliminated. The changes will apply both for identity or visual checks and for physical checks. We will take powers shortly to make direction to the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs to ensure that is the case.

On the change to the definition of qualifying Northern Ireland goods, we will require them to have a genuine connection to Northern Ireland, and not to be merely crossing through. The SI requires qualifying Northern Ireland goods to be dispatched from NI-registered food-business operators. It concentrates competitive advantage on Northern Ireland firms. We will continue to engage closely with Northern Ireland businesses on future changes and will always be responsive if arrangements need to be improved—a theme that I can safely say runs throughout everything the Government will do.

The right hon. Gentleman asked when we will introduce guidance on section 46 of the UK Internal Market Act. We will work rapidly to deliver on every aspect of the deal announced yesterday. Guidance on section 46 will be prepared as quickly as possible. I certainly hear him on that point, and he will continue to press us. The guidance will be help to avoid unnecessary gold plating.

The right hon. Gentleman asked me about Cairnryan. EU goods arriving there will be checked in line with the border target operating model, but I can confirm there will be no border control post at Cairnryan. We are working through the options and will work closely with the devolved Governments, including the newly restored Executive, to achieve our shared objectives.

The right hon. Gentleman asked about flexibilities for veterinary medicines. We are committed to exploring flexibilities that can be deployed, where they are consistent with international law, to guarantee the supply of veterinary medicines in Northern Ireland. We will establish a veterinary medicines working group to identify possibilities in this policy area, but I am not in a position to set out those flexibilities now. However, as we have all put so much effort into resetting the relationship with the European Union, I hope and expect that we will be able to succeed in a negotiation.

My right hon. Friend Theresa Villiers, the former Secretary of State, made a powerful case that Brexit must be fully delivered, with which I agree. I reassure her that nothing in this deal will prevent us from diverging. For the record, there are no commitments of any kind as part of this deal to align Great Britain with EU law, to prevent Great Britain from diverging from any retained EU law or to increase alignment in Northern Ireland beyond the strictly limited scope that Parliament has approved, which is itself subject to democratic consent and safeguards. For the avoidance of doubt, there is no legal mechanism to prevent divergence or force alignment across the whole of the UK. Ministers retain full freedom to diverge from retained EU law.

Both sides of the argument have expressed concern in this debate. I want to draw the House’s attention to paragraph 150 of the Command Paper:

“Internal Market Assessments will be publicly available so this change will enable Parliament and the NI Assembly to more readily have the information they need for their scrutiny functions. These steps will fundamentally rewire structures within the Government to ensure full consideration of the potential Northern Ireland impacts of any measures, ensuring that the internal market is integral to policy development.”

Of course, we will continue to work with all parties on outstanding issues.

Photo of Steven Baker Steven Baker The Minister of State, Northern Ireland Office

I am extremely short of time but, out of respect, I will give way.

Photo of Sammy Wilson Sammy Wilson Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Treasury), Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Work and Pensions), Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Brexit)

Will the Minister admit to the bottom line, as contained in proposed new section 13C(2)(b) of the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018, set out in the draft Windsor Framework (Constitutional Status of Northern Ireland) Regulations 2024, which requires

“a statement to the effect that the Minister is unable to make such a statement”— that is, that the Bill in question will not affect trade between Northern Ireland and GB

“but His Majesty’s Government nevertheless wishes the House to proceed with the Bill”?

The bottom line is: yes, divergence can happen and trade can be disrupted.

Photo of Steven Baker Steven Baker The Minister of State, Northern Ireland Office

I readily concede that there can be changes to retained EU law and that divergence can happen, but we have set out the safeguards at some length. I also encourage the right hon. Gentleman—as my right hon. Friend Julian Smith, who made an excellent speech, said, and as indeed Hilary Benn said—to look at the section of the Command Paper in relation to the Acts of Union. I myself learned a great deal about it.

Photo of Jeffrey M. Donaldson Jeffrey M. Donaldson DUP Westminster Leader

Very briefly, I draw the Minister’s attention to paragraph 146 of the Command Paper, which makes it very clear that where primary legislation carries implications for the internal market, the Government will set out the measures they propose to take to protect Northern Ireland’s place in the internal market.

Photo of Steven Baker Steven Baker The Minister of State, Northern Ireland Office

I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for that intervention. Yes, that is the position.

In closing, there are sensitivities on all sides, as we have heard over the course of the debate, but real life in the age of intervention is complex, and we will press on as best we can. With that, I believe this Government have kept to the timetable as we agreed. I very much hope we will be able to look forward now to a restored Executive—one we will be very pleased to support in serving the best interests of all the people of Northern Ireland.

Question put and agreed to.


That the draft Windsor Framework (UK Internal Market and Unfettered Access) Regulations 2024, which were laid before this House on 31 January, be approved.