I, too, congratulate Sir Bernard Jenkin on securing this debate, and thank him for the continued support that he has given to us in our opposition to the Northern Ireland protocol and the effects that it has had on Northern Ireland.
The protocol, if it continues to exist, is a threat to Brexit. Indeed, that was borne out by the survey carried out last weekend by Savanta, in which 57% of those who were surveyed indicated that they believed that the Northern Ireland protocol was designed to frustrate Brexit. Indeed, 40% of remainers made the same point. It represents a bridgehead that the EU still has on the United Kingdom, a salient from which it will continue to attack our sovereignty and try to claw back the influence that it lost when this country decided to leave the EU.
There are three reasons why the protocol must go. The first is that it will be an ongoing means by which Brexit will be frustrated. We have already seen how the EU has used the protocol. In fact, it is taking the UK Government to court because the UK Government will not accept the EU’s interpretation of the protocol and how it should be implemented to impose the kind of restrictions that the EU demands. The British Government argue that the protocol was meant to deal with only those goods that could be at risk of going into the EU through the Irish Republic; any other goods were not at risk. The EU takes the view that we must prove that goods are not at risk before we can avoid the checks. In other words, 97% of goods that are currently being checked do not need to be checked. They do not go any further than Northern Ireland. Yet the EU is insisting that there is a risk that they might go into the Irish Republic. That is why we have such a high level of checks. There will be future laws that will create more need for restrictions. For example, the EU is bringing in changes to the law regarding the testing of lawnmowers. Lawnmowers could be the next goods that are refused entry into Northern Ireland because they do not comply with EU law, which now applies to Northern Ireland. That is the first reason. If we do not get rid of the protocol, there is always that opportunity for friction in relations between the UK and the EU.
Secondly, I do not care what people have said about there being no constitutional impact. Of course, there is a constitutional impact. The Act of Union has been changed. The Government’s own lawyers argued in the courts that the Act of Union was changed—that when this House voted for the protocol it voted impliedly to change one of the fundamental pillars of the Act of Union, which is that there should be unimpeded and equal trade between the different countries of this nation.
The protocol’s other constitutional impact has been to take powers from the Northern Ireland Assembly. I find it amazing that those who have representatives in the Northern Ireland Assembly, such as Stephen Farry, can argue that there is nothing to worry about. His party has a Minister in the Northern Ireland Assembly and his party has Members of the Northern Ireland Assembly, yet 60% of the laws that will govern manufacturing in Northern Ireland will never be discussed, cannot be discussed, and, indeed, have to be implemented by the Northern Ireland Assembly without its having any say. The democratic responsibilities of the Northern Ireland Assembly have been undermined, and, of course, there has been a change in the Act of Union and in the constitutional position, and that contravenes the Good Friday agreement, which says that any change in the constitutional position of Northern Ireland has to have the consent of the people of Northern Ireland.
The last reason, which people have outlined very well, is the economic impact that all this is having on Northern Ireland. We already see the disruption to trade. Indeed, just this month the Ulster Bank purchasing managers index survey indicated that inflation in Northern Ireland is significantly higher than in the rest of the United Kingdom and about 50% more than the lowest region in the rest of the United Kingdom. Although that does not lie completely at the door of the protocol, it indicates that costs are rising higher in Northern Ireland because of the costs of the protocol—the delay in supply chains, the additional costs in administration and so on.
The protocol has a real impact on the future ability of Northern Ireland to compete. Of course, as laws in Northern Ireland change because EU laws are imposed, that will make it much more difficult for us to compete in our biggest market in GB. There will be those who say that we will get the best of both worlds, with a foot in the EU camp and a foot in the GB camp. That is not true, of course.