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European Union (Withdrawal) Acts

Part of Prime Minister’s Statement – in the House of Commons at 1:36 pm on 19th October 2019.

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Photo of Sammy Wilson Sammy Wilson Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Treasury), Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Work and Pensions), Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Brexit) 1:36 pm, 19th October 2019

The Democratic Unionist party has been supportive throughout the process of delivering on the result of the referendum of the British people, and we have defied and opposed the procedural chicanery and political machinations that have gone on in this place to try to undermine that result. The irony is that today, which should be a day of rejoicing for us because the Prime Minister has come back with a deal, we find that Northern Ireland, and Northern Ireland alone, will be left within the clutches of the European Union, by being a de facto member of a customs union and tied to European regulations.

The Government have put forward two defences for their position. The first is that there will be no border down the Irish sea—there is no border down the Irish sea. But let us look at the facts. As a result of the customs arrangements, every good that is exported from GB to Northern Ireland will be subject to a customs declaration. Movements will be subject to checks. Unless it can be proved that the goods are not going outside Northern Ireland, duty will be paid. Only once it has been proved that the goods are not leaving Northern Ireland will that duty be paid back. On top of that, all the regulations of the European Union will be imposed on Northern Ireland. If anybody tells me that that does not represent an economic customs legal border—a hard border between Northern Ireland and the rest of the United Kingdom—I do not know what a hard border looks like.

During debates in this House, I have heard it said that if an extra camera were to be placed on the border between Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic, or if one additional piece of paper had to be signed, that would be a break in the Good Friday agreement because it would represent a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic. On the one hand we can have all those checks between Northern Ireland and GB, and that does not count as a hard border, yet on the other, one camera on the border between Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic does count as a hard border. That shows how false the argument put forward by the Government is that they have not accepted a hard border between Great Britain and Northern Ireland. What are the implications of that? First, it means that we are cut off from the country to which we belong and, secondly, that our economic relationship with our biggest market will be damaged.

The second argument put forward by the Minister today is that we can get out of this—we can vote against it. But in Northern Ireland there is a mechanism for dealing with sensitive issues. It is enshrined in an internationally binding agreement. That mechanism, because of the sensitive nature of politics in Northern Ireland, states that any controversial issue has to be decided by a cross-community vote. That part of the Belfast agreement, which is so sacrosanct in this House and to those who negotiated it, has now been torn out.