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

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords am 9:45 pm ar 13 Chwefror 2024.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Lord Hay of Ballyore Lord Hay of Ballyore DUP 9:45, 13 Chwefror 2024

We got the clear impression that that was exactly what the other parties wanted. They complained outside the door but did not really want to come inside, and that was the theme right through the negotiations. As I said, a wee bit of honesty in the Chamber would certainly help the debate.

There is still some way to go. I believe the package of measures negotiated, including the legislation before us and the assurance from the Government regarding further legislation, will make a real difference in Northern Ireland. That is my personal view. In all these issues we have to wait to see the workings of this on the ground, which will certainly tell the tale of whether it is working. The jury is still out on a lot of these issues and on how we deal with some of them now and in the future.

It should not have taken the withdrawal from the Assembly and the Executive to get the UK Government to act to protect the union. It was only because this action was taken that negotiations were reopened and these new arrangements were brought before your Lordships’ House. I remember that for two years we said to the British Government and the European Union that the protocol was not working and that we needed to deal with certain issues in the protocol. They totally and absolutely ignored us while we were working in the Assembly. My party leader has been criticised here tonight by the noble Baroness, Lady Hoey, and some other people, which is totally and absolutely wrong. Their assumptions on the issue need to be challenged.

We said to the British Government and the European Union that there are real difficulties here. The real difficulty is that this has been done over the head of unionism. It needs to be addressed. If we are to have agreement in Northern Ireland, there has to be agreement on both sides of the community. The European Union and the British Government ignored that. There was no choice for my party leader, Sir Jeffrey Donaldson, but to pull the First Minister out. Once again, let us be absolutely clear and get the facts right. Let us not think of these issues but get the facts right. If we could have done this without pulling the First Minister out, we would have done it, but it was not going to happen.

Progress has been made, and I welcome the fact that we now have a functioning Northern Ireland Assembly back. The Assembly now has a backlog of work and has to prove to the people of Northern Ireland that it can deliver. It is my hope that a new starting point can provide a solid basis for future devolved government in Northern Ireland. There is more work to be done. It does not stop here. That is vital.

I hope the Government have learned the lesson, because it took some time to build trust with this Government. There was a total lack of trust in this Government from within the unionist community. We can go back in history to former Prime Ministers letting us down and all that—saying one thing and doing another—so it took us some time to build trust in this Government. I hope we have now built that trust.

I want to say in closing that it is time for unionists to get on the front foot rather than indulge in wishful thinking. We can bank the gains and campaign for further progress while addressing the bread and butter issues that matter to the people of Northern Ireland; or we can throw them away without a strategy in the hope of securing the untenable. I have been in the unionist cause for over 50 years; I am not a Johnny-come-lately to this cause. There are some people in this Chamber who have come late to the cause. I have not, and there are many colleagues here like me who have been fighting this cause for well over 50 years.