The government pushed two statutory instruments through parliament relating to the Windsor Framework after agreeing a deal with the DUP which will see the unionist party return to Stormont and home rule return to Northern Ireland. The legislation affirms the authority of EU law in Northern Ireland and requires government ministers to vet all new legislation for its effect on trade between Northern Ireland and the mainland.
The long road back to Stormont
On the fourth anniversary of Brexit, Business and Trade Minister Kemi Badenoch issued a detailed assessment of the benefits that Brexit has already delivered. She is one of the few ministers who seems willing to talk positively about Brexit. It is hard to see why – her assessment contained much for the UK to boast about.
Protests by farmers have escalated across Europe. Farmers in France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany, Italy, Poland, and Romania have been blockading roads, mostly in protest against planned changes to diesel subsidies which they say will put them out of business.
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban decided not to veto EU funds worth €50 billion for Ukraine after European leaders met on Thursday. In a concession to the Hungarian PM, the aid will be subject to an annual review. The money is intended to help Ukraine fund public services and is not military aid.
Research from French newspaper Le Monde has found that a quarter of all MEPs are implicated in breaches of the law and misconduct, including corruption, embezzlement and harassment. It is a damning indictment of the European Parliament and should be a reminder that EU institutions are not all that remainers make them out to be.
Den of iniquity?
The foreign secretary, Lord Cameron, has faced criticism after saying the UK could recognise a Palestinian state without a deal with Israel. Recent comments from Israeli politicians, including Benjamin Netanyahu, suggest that a two-state solution is currently thought to be out of the question by the Israeli government.
Matt Goodwin on the failure of Ukl immigration policy
Patrick West on the myth of ‘Brexageddon’
Frank Furedi on the EU’s weaponization of history
Safeguarding the Union by Graham Gudgin
The Government’s new Command Paper Safeguarding the Union makes strenuous efforts to show that Northern Ireland remains an integral part of the UK economic union notwithstanding remaining EU influence. This article argues that the economic impact of the reformed Northern Ireland Protocol will be small and that the union is safe.
Opponents of the new Command Paper and of the DUP returning to Stormont will reasonably point out that the undemocratic imposition of EU regulation of production within Northern Ireland and the fact of a trade border within the UK are a constitutional outrage. They are also an outrage that could have been avoided if mutual enforcement of customs regulations had been adopted instead of the panoply of complex arrangements in the original Protocol. Nonetheless the economic impact of the reformed arrangements are relatively small and there is little indication that they will underpin a drift to Irish Unity. There is no prospect of any UK Government endangering its TCA free trade agreement with the EU in order to remove the NI Protocol. The DUP is right to recognize this reality and to congratulate itself on the reforms it has been able to persuade the UK Government to adopt.
The Tory minister most willing to argue for the benefits of Brexit is Kemi Badenoch. This week her Department for Business and Trade issued a detailed assessment of the achievements made in the four years since the UK left the EU. Since much of the media including the FT ignored the report we present the Department’s press release below with a link to the full report.
Since the referendum in 2016, the UK has grown faster than Germany, Italy, and Japan and at a similar rate to France. Our services exports are at a record-high of £472 billion and the IMF predicts that between 2024-2028 the UK will see the third fastest growth in the G7 – stronger than France, Germany, Italy, and Japan. Through Brexit, the UK is capitalising on its economic might, while the Government delivers real, tangible benefits not just for British business but for the British people, too.
The latest iteration of the Windsor Framework will doubtless be a cause for pessimism amongst brexiteers. Though unionist fears that it will push Northern Ireland towards closer economic union with the south are overblown (see Briefings co-editor Graham Gudgin’s article), it does make divergence from EU rules for the UK as a whole more difficult. It always appeared to be part of the EU’s strategy to enforce regulatory alignment post-Brexit by being intransigent on the issue of the border in Ireland. But it is important to remember that, thanks to Brexit, any new laws introduced by parliament can be just as easily repealed by parliament as soon as there is the political will for it. We are only ever one pro-Brexit government away from divergence.
The new legislation imposes a particularly insidious duty on ministers. They are required to screen all new legislation for its effect on trade with Northern Ireland and either make a statement to parliament to the effect that there are no effects foreseen or to make a statement saying that they do foresee an effect but want to proceed anyway. The latter will always present political difficulties for parties that are committed to the union. But a broad enough interpretation of ‘no effects on trade with Northern Ireland’ would make it hard to introduce regulatory changes (especially to manufacturing and agriculture) without being forced to admit there would be effects. The result is de facto alignment with EU rules in any sector with significant NI/GB trade.
But de facto subordination to the EU is much better than de jure subordination because it is much easier to undo. While members, regulatory divergence was impossible and regulatory change extremely difficult – it required changes to be agreed across the bloc. Now that the UK is not bound by law to drink the EU kool aid, divergence can be achieved with a mere act of parliament. Of course, the tradeoffs with the border in Ireland and the FTA with the EU will still be present. For as long as the EU refuses to accept alternatives like mutual enforcement the UK’s choices will be somewhat limited. But now that we are formally outside the EU, whatever choice is made will be our choice, and a choice which can be undone at any time.