My Lords, my party, the DUP, wants to see an orderly withdrawal from the European Union. The United Kingdom, which of course includes Northern Ireland, joined as a single entity and on the same terms and conditions. It is therefore important that we leave in the same manner. However, it is quite clear that this is not the way that it is planned. It is patently clear that Northern Ireland is to be treated differently from the rest of the UK.
Furthermore, the draft deal fails to deliver the referendum result in every part of the UK. It leaves Northern Ireland subject to the rulings of the European Court of Justice. It creates a democratic deficit whereby Northern Ireland would become subservient to EU legislation with no representation at all. The draft agreement would establish significant differences between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK, as set out in annexe 5 to the protocol. It means Northern Ireland remaining in the EU single market rules for goods, including food standards, while Great Britain does not.
In terms of the settled constitution of the precious union, I shall make it very plain: the draft agreement, if implemented as printed, will ultimately threaten the future of the union, something that the Prime Minister continually repeated would not happen. Furthermore, any risk of differentiation or division between the component nations should be avoided, irrespective of how low the chance is of the backstop taking effect.
The very fact that Northern Ireland is singled out for special treatment should ring alarm bells even at this stage. If the concept of regulatory divergence and continued membership of the single market exists in the embryo of the withdrawal agreement then it is quite possible that the architects of the EU project, driven by the historic pro-republican agenda of the EU bureaucrats, will ensure that this embryonic prototype of an all-Ireland converged economic entity will be nurtured to the point of birth, and then rescuing the political union with GB will be well-nigh impossible.
The wording of the draft withdrawal agreement also ensures that Dublin and Brussels hold an active veto on whether the backstop ceases in Northern Ireland in future. Both options—the review mechanism or an extension to the transition period—fail to allow the UK to unilaterally move away from the arrangements should it wish to do so. This could leave us in an indefinite limbo and make it harder to leave the backstop than to leave the EU itself. The ability to supersede the backstop in whole or in part also expresses a danger that Great Britain may be able to leave the backstop but Northern Ireland has to remain. We would be handcuffed to the EU with Brussels holding the keys. That is not taking back control, in my opinion.
We are not alone in our resolve to oppose the risk that this deal presents to the union. Departing Cabinet members hold to our view that this agreement would break up the United Kingdom. Labour has described it as a de facto border in the Irish Sea. The parliamentary debate in the coming days should not be framed as a binary choice between a bad deal or no deal. We believe that there is widespread Cross-Bench support for a deal with the EU, but not this one. We will not, as some have suggested, step back from our commitments to defend the security of the union and protect the long-term economic interests of Northern Ireland. Ultimately, that cannot be guaranteed by this deal, and for that reason, my party cannot in good conscience support it.
Convergence of the political structures and economic alignment has been a cornerstone of Sinn Féin/IRA for decades. Strip out all symbols of British and unionist culture and replace it with “shared space” and “shared future”, which of course is just political speak for cultural and economic assimilation of the pro-union people. This strikes me as a modern day Trojan horse.