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Brexit - Motion to Take Note

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 7:51 pm on 2nd October 2019.

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Photo of Lord Empey Lord Empey UUP 7:51 pm, 2nd October 2019

My Lords, yesterday in this Chamber, as reported in Hansard, in answer to the noble Lord, Lord Wigley, the noble Lord, Lord Duncan of Springbank, said:

“It is not the intention of this Government to have Northern Ireland treated any differently from any other part of this, our United Kingdom”.—[Official Report, 1/10/19; col. 1622.]

Will the Minister stand over that statement when he winds up this evening? I do not know how he can, because the document that has just been circulated to us before this debate creates the very thing that most of us feared most: the border up the Irish Sea. If anybody doubts that that is what this is, the Government says in paragraph 4 of this paper:

“The proposal set out in this note would see regulatory checks applying between Great Britain and Northern Ireland”.

There are border inspection posts or designated posts of entry as required by EU law. They talk about the boundary of the zone, the zone of regulatory compliance governed by laws into which they have no say, because, of course, Northern Ireland would be in the single market and subject to its rules. Then we are supposed to go into a form of purgatory because this proposal would be that before the end of the transition period, and “every four years afterwards”, the UK will provide an opportunity for a democratic consent to these arrangements.

This would mean that all our subsequent political discourse at every election would be a row over this. While of course I, like every other Member of this House, will have to take time to read the document carefully, at first sight it looks worse to me than the last one, which was the EU withdrawal agreement negotiated by Mrs May. I am not surprised that the DUP Peers have scuttled out of the Chamber, because they set out their views here in one statement after another. Mr Dodds, their deputy leader, said that there would be no internal UK border in the Irish Sea. Now, we do not have one border; we have two borders. Then another colleague goes on to say that,

“there can be no arrangements agreed that compromise the integrity of the UK single market and place barriers, real or perceived, to the free movement of goods, services and capital between Northern Ireland and the rest of the United Kingdom”.

But there will be. They then say:

“We will not accept any form of regulatory divergence which separates Northern Ireland economically or politically from the rest of the United Kingdom”.

They also said:

“But not in relation to following the rules of the single market or the customs union for Northern Ireland as a generality”.

But not only will agricultural goods be covered; all products will be covered.

Then, of course, the travel correspondent of the DUP, Ian Paisley, says,

“Northern Ireland has not been designated some purgatorial relationship of neither being in or outside the EU but will be treated completely the same as every other component part of the UK”.

No. I just do not know at this stage how the DUP can even look in the mirror in the morning. The red lines that it drew up were that there would be no interruption in the integrity of the United Kingdom. That red line has been broken by these proposals without any doubt whatever.

Diane Dodds MEP said,

“There will be no internal trade borders within the UK”.

Yes, there will.

I had hoped tonight to put forward proposals that I believed would provide an alternative to the backstop. We could make it an offence for UK territory to be used for the transport of goods to the European market that are not compliant. We could indemnify the European Union were it to be the case that it was found that any goods slipped through and entered the EU. I also believe that on to the Good Friday agreement a cross-border body should be created, an additional one by treaty, involving the European Union, the Republic and the United Kingdom where that body would have a role in monitoring and policing the appropriate arrangements on the island.

We also find that these proposals mean that Her Majesty’s Government will allow the EU Court of Justice to administer EU law in Northern Ireland. That was another red line. Therefore, this requires very careful consideration and I am horrified—shocked—that anybody describing themselves as unionist would be not simply accepting but advocating a border up the Irish Sea. They are advocating, because they have signed up to this and they are promoting that, so they are advocating a border up the Irish Sea. I do not know how any unionist can possibly stand in front of the electorate and say that. It is an outrage, and people need to think very carefully where we are going with all of this. I accept what the noble Lord, Lord Tugendhat, said: the decision has been made and we should implement it, but there are ways and means and I really fear that this is not the way or the means.