EU Law Will Have 'Small And Limited Role' In Northern Ireland, Rishi Sunak Says

The DUP and Tory backbenchers are now poring over the details of Windsor Framework.
Britain's Prime Minister Rishi Sunak.
Britain's Prime Minister Rishi Sunak.
DAN KITWOOD via Getty Images

EU law will have a “small and limited role” in Northern Ireland under the new Brexit deal, Rishi Sunak has said.

The prime minister admitted the so-called Windsor Framework meant there was still a small role for European Union law in the region.

He also acknowledged there needed to be border checks on some goods crossing the Irish Sea, but stressed they were mainly “red lane” items heading to Ireland and the EU’s single market.

At the heart of the deal is the idea of green lanes and red lanes. British goods staying in NI will use the green lane at ports, meaning they face minimal paperwork.

Goods travelling into Ireland will use the red lane, meaning they face customs processes and other checks at Northern Ireland ports.

The Democratic Unionist Party [DUP] and Tory backbenchers are now studying the details of the complex set of arrangements.

A major sticking point for those groups is the reach of EU law in the region and both will oppose the deal unless they are satisfied the issue of the supremacy of EU law is resolved.

The DUP set seven tests it says must be passed, including the removal of the European Court of Justice’s [ECJ] role in overseeing any new agreement.

Asked about the extent of EU law and the role of the ECJ, Sunak told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “In practical terms, something that is important to people in Northern Ireland is not having a border between Northern Ireland and the Republic, I think that’s important to everybody in fact, but also it’s important for businesses to have access to the EU single market.

“As long as the people of Northern Ireland consent to that arrangement, then that’s why there is a small and limited role for EU law in Northern Ireland – what we are talking about is less than 3% of EU laws that apply in Northern Ireland and they apply very specifically for the purpose that I just mentioned.”

A key part of the deal is an emergency “Stormont brake” on changes to EU goods rules that can be pulled by the NI Assembly.

Sunak, who is in Northern Ireland to sell the deal, said the role of EU law “only persists for as long as the people are happy with it”.

He added: “What we have done yesterday is introduce a new measure – the Stormont brake – which gives power to the institution in Northern Ireland, Stormont, to say that if there’s a new law that’s going to significantly impact people’s lives coming from the EU, they will be able to block it.”

On Monday, Sunak unveiled the deal which he promised would be a “turning point” for the region after years of post-Brexit tensions.

The Windsor Framework removes barriers on trade across the Irish Sea and hands a “veto” to politicians in Stormont on EU law.

DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson has welcomed “significant progress” even as he warned that “there remain key issues of concern” regarding the deal.

The view of the party will be crucial, if the deal is to help restore powersharing at Stormont.

What Is The Northern Ireland Protocol?

It is a trading arrangement, negotiated during Brexit talks, to allow goods to be transported across the Irish land border without the need for checks.

The deal was aimed at protecting the delicate Good Friday Agreement and to avoid putting up a hard border between NI and the Republic.

However, unionist parties argue that the protocol instead places an effective border across the Irish Sea, undermining Northern Ireland’s place within the UK.

NI’s largest unionist party, the DUP, is refusing to take part in the power-sharing government unless its concerns are resolved.

MPs are expected to get a vote on the deal, but Downing Street has not so far said when or how such a vote might take place.

Tory Brexiteers in the European Research Group [ERG] are to meet on Tuesday and will convene MP Sir Bill Cash’s so-called “star chamber” of lawyers to scrutinise the deal before deciding whether to back it.

The Windsor Framework will replace the NI protocol — which was designed to prevent a hard border with Ireland after Brexit but meant NI has continued to follow EU rules on goods to prevent checks being needed when crossing into the Republic.

Unionists’ anger over the trade barriers in the Irish Sea culminated in the DUP collapsing power-sharing in February last year, leaving Northern Ireland without an executive or an assembly.


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