09 January 2019
DUP Deputy Leader Rt Hon Nigel Dodds MP said,
DUP Deputy Leader, Leader of the DUP Parliamentary Party, Spokesman on Reform and Constitutional issues and Foreign Affairs
“We recognise that the Government has been working to bring forward measures to address our long-held concerns about the backstop issue.
As far back as December 2017 we have been insisting that we cannot have specific backstop arrangements being introduced over the head of the Northern Ireland Assembly.
Undoubtedly there are some elements of the paper that could be improved and built upon but the paper published by the Government is designed to give reassurances in the context that Northern Ireland will be subject to the backstop being operational. Indeed, paragraph 43 of the paper says, “This paper has focused particularly on the role that the NI institutions will play in any scenario in which the backstop would take effect”
We reject the backstop and have previously, and consistently, indicated we will not support an internationally legally binding withdrawal agreement that contains its provisions.
Such an international treaty supersedes and overrides any contrary domestic legal provisions.
The proposal to ensure “a strong role for the Northern Ireland Assembly” before NI specific backstop provisions are given effect is cosmetic and meaningless in that as the paper itself indicates (paragraph 14) “this would be without prejudice to our commitment to abide by our international law obligations”. The Assembly would not be able to override UK international legal obligations as the backstop provisions would be in the treaty.
The Government’s assurances do not faithfully implement what was agreed and included in paragraph 50 of the Joint Report in December 2017. In that paragraph, the Assembly was to decide whether specific arrangements were required. Consultation cannot replace the Assembly determining these matters.
Furthermore, it is clear that under these proposals providing a law for a mandatory process of consultation with the Assembly on whether to bring the backstop into effect would ultimately have no bearing on the decisions to be taken by Parliament – “Parliament will have a decisive role in that decision.” Paragraph 16
Were we to find the backstop being brought into effect then in such circumstances there would be no exit mechanism from the backstop and consequently these series of measures outlined by the Government would not be sufficient to deal with the major and significant flaws of an internationally binding backstop arrangement.
For our part we believe that it is unacceptable that the UK internal market, and Northern Ireland’s significant relationship as an integral part of it, would be reliant on the terms of an Act or Acts of Parliament, which could be the subject of change at any time depending on the policy views of a future United Kingdom Government. Meanwhile Northern Ireland would be bound by the terms of the international withdrawal treaty with no clear exit route.
The Government is aware that we will not countenance anything which places Northern Ireland’s place within the internal market of the United Kingdom at risk and which creates significant new regulatory divergence risks within the UK. Our position on all these matters has not changed.
We will continue to work to secure a better deal in the time ahead.”