The Government are today publishing a paper, “UK Government commitments to Northern Ireland and its integral place in the United Kingdom”, which outlines a package of commitments to the people of Northern Ireland as we leave the EU—giving Northern Ireland a strong voice and role in any decision to bring the backstop into effect, and in its implementation in that scenario.
These commitments underline Northern Ireland’s integral place in the United Kingdom and reflect that it is the only part of the United Kingdom sharing a land border with an EU member state. They seek to address some of the questions that have been asked about the backstop in that regard. We recognise that these alone will not address all of Parliament’s concerns—including for those who have focused on changes from the EU. But it is right that we look to do what we can as a Government to safeguard the interests of the people and businesses of Northern Ireland, and respond to some of the key concerns that have been raised.
The commitments include:
Setting out that no new areas of EU law would be applied in a backstop scenario without seeking the agreement of the Northern Ireland Assembly;
Ensuring unfettered access for Northern Ireland businesses to the Great Britain economy;
Providing a strong role for Stormont before the backstop could be triggered;
Giving the Northern Ireland Executive a role in Northern Ireland-specific discussions between the UK and EU under the structures established in the withdrawal agreement;
Outlining that there would be no regulatory divergence between GB and Northern Ireland in areas covered by the backstop in any scenario in which it applied;
A guarantee that there would be no change to north-south co-operation through the protocol, preserving the arrangements under strand II of the Belfast (“Good Friday”) agreement;
A powerful voice for Northern Ireland in future relationship negotiations—putting the voice of the Northern Ireland Executive, along with the other devolved Administrations, at the heart of that work.
The Government are publishing this paper ahead of the commencement of the meaningful vote debate on the withdrawal deal.
I am placing a copy of the paper “UK Government commitments to Northern Ireland and its integral place in the United Kingdom”, and a copy of “Special meeting of the European Council (Art. 50) (13 December 2018)—Conclusions” in the Libraries of both Houses.