European Union (Withdrawal) Act

Part of Business of the House (Today) – in the House of Commons at 2:03 pm on 12th March 2019.

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Photo of Theresa May Theresa May The Prime Minister, Leader of the Conservative Party 2:03 pm, 12th March 2019

I am going to continue, because I want to make a very specific point about Northern Ireland, given its unique position and the fact that it will be the only part of the UK to share a border with the EU. I want to set out further commitments today on protections for Northern Ireland and its integral place in the United Kingdom.

First, the Government will legislate to give a restored Northern Ireland Assembly a vote on a cross-community basis on whether the backstop should be brought into force if there are delays in the trade talks. If Stormont does not support that, Ministers will be bound to seek an approach that would achieve cross-community support. That could, for example, be an extension of the implementation period. It has previously been the case that the understanding was that the choice would be between the backstop and the implementation period. The introduction of alternative arrangements, of course, brings another element into that, but there is that key commitment in relation to the Northern Ireland Assembly. If Stormont were to support an implementation period as the alternative, Ministers would be bound to seek an extension of the implementation period, assuming that that had achieved cross-community support.

Secondly, we will maintain the same regulatory standards across the United Kingdom for as long as the backstop is in force. This is a commitment that we have already made, but I can now tell the House that we will legislate to make this legally binding.

Thirdly, the Government will legislate to prohibit any expansion of north-south co-operation through the withdrawal agreement. That will remain a matter for the Northern Ireland Executive and Assembly in line with the Belfast agreement. At every stage of these negotiations, my determination has been to deliver a deal that works for every part of the United Kingdom, and that includes Northern Ireland.