Windsor Framework (Constitutional Status of Northern Ireland) Regulations 2024 - Motion to Approve

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords am 9:30 pm ar 13 Chwefror 2024.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Lord Browne of Belmont Lord Browne of Belmont DUP 9:30, 13 Chwefror 2024

My Lords, the two statutory instruments before us tonight are supposedly designed to protect the union and to promote the free movement of goods. I contend that both these regulations fall well short of meeting their objectives. It is clear that the Northern Ireland protocol remains largely intact. The Irish Sea border remains largely in place and, ultimately, the European Union has the final say in many significant areas in Northern Ireland. Indeed, Ministers and Assembly Members in Northern Ireland will be expected by law to adhere to, and implement, new laws that are made in Brussels, not in Belfast, and not here in London.

As I have said consistently in your Lordships’ House, the Windsor Framework does not make substantive legal changes to the Northern Ireland protocol and the supremacy of European law on many aspects of Northern Ireland. Very little in these new arrangements would contradict that view. Indeed, this deal and the framework that underpins it, make only a few limited changes. The Windsor Framework and the withdrawal agreement itself do not permit any changes to essential elements. It would be wrong to suggest that recent changes amount to substantive legal changes.

Fundamentally, the root cause of the problem with the Northern Ireland protocol and with these arrangements is the continued application of EU law in Northern Ireland—particularly in the circumstances in which it covers all manufacturing of goods in Northern Ireland, regardless of whether those goods are being sold in the United Kingdom or to the European Union. The vast majority—84%—of all goods manufactured in Northern Ireland are sold here in the United Kingdom.

The complex easings referred to in the Windsor Framework are limited in number. They will not directly help small or medium-sized traders and are not available to all businesses. The schemes will remain incredibly complex and, crucially, the EU retains a right unilaterally to withdraw its trusted trader system underpinning any new arrangements.

We arrive at a point where the Irish Sea border remains in place, according to the former Northern Ireland Attorney-General John Larkin KC. Paperwork will still be required for customs purposes and, as we can see back in Northern Ireland, customs or border posts are currently being constructed.

Northern Ireland will continue to be treated as an EU territory in many ways. Under Article 12 of the Northern Ireland protocol, which remains unchanged, the EU can direct UK authorities at ports. It is clear that we have not yet arrived at a point where friction has gone and there are zero checks and paperwork for goods from Great Britain destined for Northern Ireland. However, we must continue to work towards achieving this. While I welcome that some progress has been made here, there is still a long way to go.

To date, we have not seen evidence that the thousands of pages of EU law have been disapplied. Northern Ireland will continue to remain subject to the power and control of EU law, the European court and the European Commission on EU single market laws, which govern the manufacture and sale of goods in Northern Ireland. In some 300 areas, EU jurisdiction applies in Northern Ireland. It is a fact that Northern Ireland producers and consumers will still be subject to foreign laws, even when they do not trade with the EU at all.

To date, there is no evidence that points to a single EU single market law being removed from Northern Ireland.