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Main power in connection with other separation issues

Part of European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill – in the House of Commons at 2:00 pm on 8th January 2020.

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Photo of Robin Walker Robin Walker The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Scotland, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Northern Ireland Office) 2:00 pm, 8th January 2020

I hear the hon. Lady’s point and I have great respect for the work she does in this space, but I think she misunderstands. Clause 24 simply means that, as a result of the protocol and the UK Government’s role in the Joint Committee, there will not be decisions taken to change north-south co-operation. It does not prohibit or restrict in any way a restored Executive from taking decisions on that within the confines of the North South Ministerial Council. I have to move on now, but, in fairness, I think that that addresses the point.

The Government urge the hon. Member for North Down and the hon. Member for Foyle to withdraw amendment 33 and new clause 61 as they risk creating legal uncertainty for businesses and individuals in Northern Ireland, which is unacceptable to the Government. Our departure from the EU requires the Government to ensure that the statute book is able to function post exit, and these amendments put that at risk.

I wish now to turn to the important amendments 12, 19, 50 and 51 and new clauses 44, 52, 55 and 60. As Members can see from article 6 of the protocol, nothing in the withdrawal agreement prevents the Government from ensuring access for Northern Ireland goods to the market in Great Britain. The Prime Minister has been absolutely clear that, beyond our obligations under international law, there will be no new checks and processes on the movement of such goods. Our manifesto commitment is absolutely clear: the Bill gives us the power to deliver this. We recognise the strong voice with which Northern Ireland’s businesses have been speaking on the importance of unfettered access and of protecting Northern Ireland’s position within the internal market as a whole and the cross-party, cross-community support for this to be delivered. It can be delivered through clause 21 and through the opportunity to follow up through the Joint Committee, as we discussed earlier. We will, of course, continue to engage with businesses and stakeholders, but I none the less urge the right hon. Member for Lagan Valley and the hon. Member for Foyle to withdraw these amendments.