Northern Ireland Protocol

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 1:17 pm on 15th July 2021.

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Photo of Bill Cash Bill Cash Chair, European Scrutiny Committee, Chair, European Scrutiny Committee 1:17 pm, 15th July 2021

The United Kingdom left the EU lawfully and democratically under our own constitutional arrangements by sovereign Acts of Parliament, including a referendum, all based on our fundamental internal domestic law of sovereignty under our own unwritten constitution. The EU has always known that.

We left the EU and the European Communities Act 1972, in the light of previous centuries of democratic self-government and contribution to European peace, because of long-standing concerns about European integration, undemocratic majority voting for law making behind closed doors without even a transcript, EU regulations incompatible with our desire for competitive global trading, and awareness that there has never been a level playing field.

Our sovereign Acts of Parliament are Acts of the United Kingdom, including Northern Ireland. They cover trading co-operation, withdrawal itself, and the Northern Ireland protocol, which was made during parliamentary paralysis in 2019 before the last general election. There is also, of course, the Good Friday agreement, which is important. It is in the mutual neighbourly interests of the United Kingdom and the EU to recognise that we have left the EU and are no longer in its legislative and judicial sphere.

Crucially, in addition to article 16, section 38(2)(b) of the European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Act 2020, an Act of Parliament of the United Kingdom passed by a large majority—what is known as the “notwithstanding” section—expressly enacted, after the protocol was made, that we are able to pass our own primary legislation to override the withdrawal agreement and the protocol should Parliament so decide, notwithstanding those instruments. That is within our sovereign constitutional framework of national interest and the constitutional and territorial integrity of the United Kingdom, including Northern Ireland, and to maintain peace and stability.

Indeed, Mr Lauterpacht and other great authorities have made it abundantly clear that, as far as they are concerned, international law and the Vienna convention include provision for terminating treaties and for recognising fundamental errors in their composition and implementation. Section 38, therefore, is consistent with clear universal recognition of our fundamental internal constitutional domestic law of sovereignty and fully respects international law. It is in our mutual interests, therefore, with mutual enforcement, to protect the constitutional integrity of the UK and to maintain trade stability and order, and to protect the peace process, as is clearly stated in the legal instruments. We also need to do that, as has been stated, given the unique political circumstances of the constitutional and political situation in Northern Ireland.

The Government will be well aware of all this and, I believe, will not be deflected from insisting on our sovereignty when the EU persists in its current attitudes. Therefore, I urge the Government to continue negotiations in the short term, bearing in mind what I and others have said in this debate, and mindful of the necessity in our national interest to take such action as is our right if the EU does not alter its current approach, as Madame von der Leyen has previously indicated repeatedly, along with the leaders of some of the member states, in a way that is consistent with how the protocol should be interpreted.