The Daily Telegraph

Windsor change Political reaction to the framework


As a senior member of the European Research Group, I have listened intently to Rishi Sunak’s words. His plan sounds radical. It sounds extensive. But what does it all mean? This is in no way meant to be a negative comment about what could be a decisive move in the right direction but it raises a range of questions about what is proposed and, at the moment, there are no certain answers.

I and many of my Brexiteer colleagues will be asking serious questions over the coming days regarding the legal texts. Ursula von der Leyen was very insistent on the European Court of Justice (ECJ) retaining its role, and she asserted single market legislatio­n is EU legislatio­n and cannot be interfered with.

There is a further question which is that people have a misconcept­ion as to what single market legislatio­n is. It is not easily codified – it is very broad in its context and goes back to the Single European Act in 1986 and related legislatio­n. It is very wide and complex. It is not just about markets, it is about a whole range of matters.

The commentary includes reference to the removal of 1700 pages of EU law and, with it, ECJ interpreta­tion and oversight, which is clearly a significan­t claim. Also, according to the EU, it narrows the range of EU laws to less than 3 per cent which relate to the single market.

Subject to further analysis of exactly what this covers, in conjunctio­n with the proposals for improving democratic consent in Northern Ireland over such laws, and a veto being made available to the UK in this respect, these would, on the face of it, be clearly of significan­ce. However, the procedures accompanyi­ng them will need to be procedural­ly evaluated.

All these matters are now under intense considerat­ion by the ERG’S star chamber and others. The Government has made clear there will be reasonable time to consider the political declaratio­n and the Windsor Framework. The star chamber will, after consultati­on, provide its analysis and conclusion­s, followed by more discussion­s as soon as reasonably possible.

Of course, the Democratic Unionist Party’s views are essential in these matters but so too are those of the other Westminste­r MPS.

Fans of Yes Minister! will recall Jim Hacker’s triumph in saving the Great British banger from becoming a standardis­ed “Eurosausag­e” when the banger was never really under threat at all. However, the Protocol achieved what even satirical comedy could not. Food products from Great Britain could not sit on Belfast store shelves.

There were two big flaws in Theresa May’s proposed Brexit deal. It put huge constraint­s on trade for the whole country but was even worse for Northern Ireland. It was hard to see how this could meet anyone’s aspiration for ‘taking back control’ and it was voted down in the Commons.

As the weeks passed, the state of neuralgia got worse. Those who wanted the referendum result ignored started to claim there was simply nothing around which Parliament could coalesce. That was why I tabled an amendment at the end of January 2019 to the effect that we accepted the Withdrawal Agreement subject to “alternativ­e arrangemen­ts at the Irish border”.

Even freshly returned after the 2019 election with a majority of 80, Boris Johnson had to concede the Protocol in order to secure a deal to “get Brexit done”. The fallout has contribute­d to dysfunctio­nal politics in Northern Ireland and to the imposition of a set of practical impediment­s to trade. Northern Ireland has also been left a ‘rule taker’ forced to follow regulation on VAT and state aid for business, over which its people have had no say. The framework won’t be perfect but it looks like a massive step

forward. Green lanes in the Irish Sea will free up most of the trade. VAT, excise and state aid rules will be back under British control. Stormont will have a brake on new regulation­s. Meanwhile, there is every sign of a more constructi­ve approach being adopted by the EU, a recognitio­n that Brexit has happened and that we should focus on cooperatio­n.

Mr Sunak has handled the negotiatio­n of this deal in the same cack-handed way as Theresa May but even she would not have involved His

Majesty in such a controvers­ial issue. The Whitehall thinking, of course, is that Unionists cannot walk away if the monarch is connected with the deal. Even the name, The Windsor Framework, is meant to bring comfort to Unionists.

However, the fundamenta­l point is whether the DUP’S seven tests have been met. If not, there will be no devolution and no 25th anniversar­y party for the Belfast Agreement. More worrying for me is that devolution for Northern Ireland, which I believe in, will be off the agenda for quite some time.

We are told that the Northern Ireland Assembly can pull a new brake on EU law – but if that can be overridden by Westminste­r, which I suspect is the case, then it doesn’t stop EU law from coming into being in Northern Ireland.

This key area of small print will be critical to whether the DUP accepts the deal. It goes to the heart of dealing with the democratic deficit and the role of the European Court of Justice. If there is no genuine consent, that will cause real problems.

Moreover, will this framework sit alongside the Protocol or replace parts of it? Legality is important to the EU – it should be to us as well.

The legal text will be revelatory. It provides black-and-white answers. Mr Sunak has had his say, now the DUP will have theirs. Let’s hope the spin he has put on the deal holds up when the text is examined.

The PM is now being presented as the leader who actually “got Brexit done” neatly usurping Boris Johnson’s most significan­t achievemen­t. And it is reasonably credible. What had been a messy withdrawal that left Northern Ireland effectivel­y annexed by Brussels is now an apparently reasonable deal that manages to accommodat­e the historical anomalies of that troubled nation. We had plenty of advance notice: the “new” green trade lanes were no surprise.

What had always been the most difficult question of sovereignt­y – whether Ulster would be subject to future EU law and regulation and to the authority of the ECJ – appears to have been addressed. But not answered with absolute clarity. There is to be a new mechanism called the Stormont Brake which will permit Ulster to “examine” any future EU law.

What exactly will this mean? Mrs von der Leyen described this as an ‘emergency measure’. Does that mean the EU would not expect it to be used?

If the EU really has agreed to that limitation on its powers, then we may truly be, as the Prime Minister claimed, entering a new era in our relations with Brussels – and he will deserve the credit for it.

 ?? ?? Bill Cash
What will ERG hardliners say
Bill Cash What will ERG hardliners say
 ?? ?? Graham Brady Why I’m backing the framework
Graham Brady Why I’m backing the framework
 ?? ?? Janet Daley
Triumph for Rishi, if it is what he says
Janet Daley Triumph for Rishi, if it is what he says
 ?? ?? Arlene Foster I’m not buying Rishi’s spin
Arlene Foster I’m not buying Rishi’s spin

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