Northern Ireland's place within the United Kingdom must be restored

Speaking this afternoon during the 2nd reading debate of the Northern Ireland Protocol Bill in the House of Lords, Lord Dodds of Duncairn said,

By The Rt Hon Lord Dodds of Duncairn OBE Peer

"This Bill is necessary and provides the potential for helping to resolve the crisis in the political process in N Ireland brought about by the Protocol. Although there are many aspects where we would proceed differently.

It is clear that the Protocol, albeit implemented only partially so far, has the following effects;

It rips up the free trading arrangements enshrined in Article 6 of the acts of Union, as adjudicated by the courts in NI.

It runs completely contrary to the cross community arrangements at the heart of the Belfast Agreement (as amended), it is contrary to the consent principle, and it has undermined and continues to undermine the very Agreement it purports to safeguard;

And, my Lords, it negates democracy itself.

Up until 31st December 2020, the people of Northern Ireland, as in the rest of the UK, were able to elect legislators to make all the laws to which they were subject.

On the 1st January 2021, however, every citizen of the United Kingdom living in Northern Ireland was subject to the deeply demeaning experience of having the significance of their votes slashed, as the responsibility for making the laws of Northern Ireland were taken from them and given to the members of a legislature of a foreign political entity of which they were not a part, and in which they had no representation, not just in relation to one statute, or indeed one area of law, but in 300 areas of legislation.

The outworking of Northern Ireland being subject to EU law, whilst the rest of the UK is not, has massive far reaching detrimental consequences, both constitutional and economic, which will get worse over time… given that it is rest of the UK which is by far our biggest market for trade.

As a result of dividing up our country in this way we have increasing friction for the movement of goods from one part of the UK to another as a result of needless checks and tonnes of paperwork, we have divergence of trade, restricted consumer choice and increased costs. We have threats to investment through having different state aid regimes for Northern Ireland and Great Britain. We are denied the benefit as British citizens of UK wide tax changes by being subject to EU VAT rules.

My lords, as I have looked round to try to describe the reality of what confronts us, the only model I can find that comes close to fitting is the UN category of a Non Self-Governing Territory which is the current term for a colony.

Most colonies today are actually largely self-governing. They remain classified as colonies because they are not entirely self-governing.

However, it is clear that on the basis of the UN definition of an NSGT, and given the level of self-government enjoyed by existing colonies… that Northern Ireland not only meets the UN definition of a colony but one in relation to which the colonial power – in our case the EU – controls more of the governance of Northern Ireland than do many officially recognised colonial powers in relation to their colonies.

That such a “solution” should be thought desirable or workable for part of the United Kingdom in the 21st century beggars belief.

We have heard about this bill and international law this afternoon.

My Lords, the erosion of our citizens’ rights to fundamental democratic rights under this Protocol is contrary, in my view, to international law.

The right to political participation can be found in Article 25 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and Article 21 of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights, which states that 'Everyone has the right to take part in the government of his country, directly or through freely chosen representatives.'

This has plainly been violated by the Protocol.

Of greatest importance, however, is the fact that the plundering of aspects of our right to decide our laws violates the Belfast Agreement which commits to no erosion of democratic rights. I would have thought those who claim they are defending that Agreement would want to rectify that with alacrity.

A foundational provision of the Protocol, Article 2, specifically obliges the UK Government to ensure that there is no diminishment of any Belfast Agreement right following Brexit. Article 2 (1) states: 'The United Kingdom shall ensure that no diminution of rights, safeguards or equality of opportunity, as set out in that part of the 1998 Agreement entitled Rights, Safeguards and Equality of Opportunity results from its withdrawal from the Union…

My Lords the greatest urgency is now required to restore full democratic rights to the people of Northern Ireland.

To those tempted to delay this Bill I would say I cannot conceive of anything more counter-productive. It can only embolden intransigence on the part of the EU during negotiations, and it will delay the return of the institutions in Northern Ireland if negotiations fail to deliver the fundamental replacement of the Protocol that is necessary.

It would greatly increase the threat of instability in Northern Ireland which, thanks to misguided attempts to prevent the whole of the United Kingdom leaving the EU as one, is now more unstable than it has been for years.

My Lords whether by negotiation or by legislation, the objective of restoring sovereignty to the people of N Ireland must be achieved and with that the full restoration of Northern Ireland’s place in the internal market of the United Kingdom”

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