Amendment 22

Part of Trade Bill - Report (2nd Day) – in the House of Lords at 4:00 pm on 13th March 2019.

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Photo of Lord Alderdice Lord Alderdice Liberal Democrat 4:00 pm, 13th March 2019

My Lords, I want to address something in this amendment that is important, but which has not been picked up so far. In saying so, I support the amendment, which proposes to support the Good Friday agreement. People tend to think of that in terms of the structures within Northern Ireland and between north and south. However, a key part of the agreement was the arrangement of the British-Irish Intergovernmental Conference between the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland. For 10 years, it did not meet. The British and Irish Governments were in default of the Good Friday agreement for a decade. The European Union supported the Good Friday agreement, as did our friends in the United States.

In the context of the Good Friday agreement and addressing our difficulties, the suggestion that Ireland should be with the 27 countries which are negotiating with the UK, or having negotiations on their behalf, actually ignores the Good Friday agreement. If Britain and Ireland were not fulfilling it, the European Union should have been pushing the British and Irish Governments to come together to reach agreements that they could bring to Brussels together. There have been suggestions that this would be a breach of European Union understandings; it would not. However, not doing it is a breach of the Good Friday agreement.

If the British and Irish Governments have already agreed, or would agree over the next few months, on the main north-south economic and transport issues—agriculture, agri-food business and electricity—and agree that they would approach Brussels and request that these issues be dealt with on an all-Ireland basis, because they already largely are, it is highly likely that Brussels would accept that, whatever the other issues. It would not require a backstop; it would be a frontloading. The key thing is that the British and Irish Governments need to work together on this. That is what the last clause in the amendment says. In some ways, this ought to be the first clause, and the first stop, not a backstop: that the Governments come together and propose something.

People have repeatedly said that it is not appropriate for Ireland and the United Kingdom to negotiate together, because this is something between the UK and the EU as a whole. However, that simply does not work if people believe that they and the EU support the Good Friday agreement, which requires and mandates direct negotiations between London and Dublin on all joint issues. This has not been happening and I appeal to the Minister, as I appeal to Ministers in the Republic of Ireland, to come together on this issue. Ireland should be a bridge between the UK and the EU, not a bulwark for the EU against the UK.