The government’s PR victory with the British public on Northern Ireland is not necessarily matched by enthusiasm from Ulster Unionists or the business community. A large number of politicians from Northern Ireland were in the US this week in connection with St Patrick’s Day. Coverage was largely dominated by an indiscreet joke by Irish prime Minister Leo Varadkar about Bill Clinton and interns, with the more extraordinary suggestion by Hillary Clinton that Unionist MLAs step down if they opposed the Northern Ireland Protocol going under the radar.
In other UK news, the SNP is experiencing serious issues with its internal elections. Nicola Sturgeon’s husband has been forced to resign as party chief executive after electoral transparency concerns boiled over. Chancellor Jeremy Hunt released his budget also this week, largely entrenching his previous policy direction.
Overhanging this economic prognosis is the turmoil in the banking sector. Two American banks have failed (Silicon Valley Bank and Signature Bank), while Credit Suisse has received emergency state support. The problems are similar in some respects to the flash crisis in LDI funds which brought down the Truss government last autumn, both related to rising interest rates and falling bond prices.
In Europe, French President Macron continues to grapple with strikes and mass protests against his pension reforms, which he passed by decree after failing to secure parliamentary support. Germany has blocked European green automobile reforms. Turkey has finally consented to Sweden and Finland joining NATO.
Finally, fresh from his success in maintaining EU law in Northern Ireland, Commission Vice-President Maros Sefcovic is attempting the same trick for Switzerland. In his Freiburg University speech he attempted to revive the stalled 7-year negotiations which would bring the Swiss into the EU Single Market supervised by the European Court of Justice. Although many Swiss firms agree, the majority of the population continue to resist the EU’s advances.
Briefings co-editor Graham Gudgin will take part in a debate organised by the thinktank UK in a Changing Europe on Wednesday 22nd of March at 6:30. We’d encourage you to register to attend in person or online via the links here.
Our other Briefings co-editor Robert Tombs was on the Jeremy Vine show on Radio 2 on Tuesday debating Brexit and the CPTPP. You can catch up with the discussion here (timestamp 1:05:40). Robert also wrote an article for the Daily Telegraph on France’s role in determining EU foreign policy, and its correspondingly negative effects.
The counter for article views on the Briefings site has been malfunctioning recently – we apologise for the inconvenience.
The Windsor Framework – getting Brexit undone, by Caroline Bell
In a functioning democracy, one could be forgiven for believing that a sovereign Parliament would have the final say on whether foreign laws could be imposed on British citizens. But Rishi Sunak intends to bypass Parliament and use the Royal Prerogative to implement an international agreement which allows the EU to make new laws directly applicable in all parts of the United Kingdom.
“The sting in the Windsor Framework is carefully disguised by scattering the details through multiple documents. In total, no less than 37 separate documents relating to the WF have been published on the British government and European
The Windsor Framework – a legal and democratic sting, by Caroline Bell
The rebranding of the Northern Ireland Protocol as the ‘Windsor Framework’ is perhaps one of the biggest political con tricks of the Brexit years.
“MPs need to act fast, given the gallop at which this fundamental change to our laws and constitution is being pushed through.”
The government plans to introduce the Stormont break to amend the Northern Ireland Protocol on Wednesday 22nd. The chosen mechanism is a vote on Statutory Instrument in the House of Commons, preceded by a 90-minute debate, which will exclude full scrutiny from the Lords and Commons.
It will execute the rest of the deal via the Royal Prerogative and other Statutory Instruments. The vote will take place on the same day that Boris Johnson attends a meeting of the Privileges Committee to be questioned over “Partygate”, dividing political and media attention.
To those unfamiliar with the Parliament process, this is not much scrutiny for changes of this magnitude. The changes will embed the Northern Protocol, slightly modified, as a permanent feature of Ulster’s constitutional landscape. Rishi Sunak also declined an invitation to go before the Parliamentary EU Scrutiny Committee to answer questions on the measure. The administration seems to hope that the deal will be quietly passed and its details unexamined.
The EU, however, has rather embarrassed Sunak’s government by pressing ahead with its own reforms that make it easier for the Commission to penalise the UK if it breaches the Withdrawal Agreement. Those who protested against the unilateral measures of the UK’s Internal Market and Northern Ireland Protocol Bills have been curiously silent on this issue, despite the obvious similarities.
Ahead of Britain’s anticipated agreement in principle to join the CPTPP, several lobby groups have expressed opposition. Some, like the FT, make the familiar argument that the EU is so essential to the British economy that any step away from Brussels would be disastrous. Others offer unlikely claims of food standards catastrophe if the UK joins (though the article cited by “Save British Farming” was about US food standards, despite the fact America isn’t even a member of the CPTPP).Twitter
We are also on Twitter, posting articles and retweeting the daily events that bring Brexit to the fore in the national news.
Discussion also continues over on Facebook.
How you can help
There is much about Britain’s relationship with Europe that remains to be decided. Our MPs listen to their constituents. Do continue to send them links to our articles, especially on matters relevant to your constituency. Alternatively, make an appointment to speak to them at their next surgery. Let them know what you want post-Brexit Britain to look like.
Yet it is also time for unity and reconciliation. Keep reading our posts and share links to our quality content to help others understand how leaving the EU has benefited the UK economy and democratic governance. We aim to educate our critics to think differently and more positively about the long-term impact of Brexit.
An aspiring barrister
Economist, Centre for Business Research, Judge Business School University of Cambridge
Emeritus Professor of French History, University of Cambridge