Brexit: UK 'can't decide unilaterally' on protocol says Coveney
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Critics within the Unionist community are deeply concerned because the agreement requires Northern Ireland to adhere to EU rules and regulations for goods travelling to and from the British mainland, something they regard as having imposed a border down the Irish Sea. Mr Coveney posted: “Don’t know how many times this needs to be said before it’s fully accepted as true.
“NI Protocol is a technical trading arrangement to manage the disruption of #Brexit for the island of #Ireland to the greatest extent possible…. It’s not about constitutional matters.”
However, Baron Moylan, the former chairman of the London Legacy Development Corporation, disagreed vehemently.
Responding to Mr Coveney’s tweet, he said: “I don’t know how often this has to be stated: a constitution is about the allocation of decision-making to different arms of the state and the NI Protocol changes who makes decisions about laws there. So it is clearly a constitutional change.”
Baron Moylan told Express.co.uk: “It goes back to the Good Friday Agreement, which says that there shouldn’t be a change in Northern Ireland’s constitutional status without a referendum.
“Now, if you look at the Northern Ireland protocol the very first words on the first page say this is not the change in the constitutional status of Northern Ireland, because they’re trying to preclude the idea that it needs a referendum.
“In my view, that’s simply untrue, but he’s sticking to that, he’s saying it is not a constitutional change.
“But I’m saying it is because you’re changing now who makes the laws in Northern Ireland and now the EU is a lawmaker in Northern Ireland
“And so I think it is a constitutional change.
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“Whether you need a referendum on the Good Friday Agreement or not ties into a second point that is related, which is that the people of Northern Ireland had never been asked if they want the Protocol.”
Baron Moylan, who also served as the Prime Minister’s airport adviser when he was Mayor of London, explained: “The best Boris could get was an assembly vote in 2024.”
Under the Good Friday Agreement, such a major change should be introduced with the consent of both communities Baron Moylan said.
However, because such a vote would offer the Unionists a veto, the EU had refused, he pointed out.
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He added: “In fact there has been a change to the Good Friday Agreement in the way it works in Northern Ireland to allow for that.
“So I’m saying I do not think that is good enough. First of all it’s three years down the road, and normally when you have a new system you vote for it before it starts.
“And secondly, it’s the assembly, and maybe it should be a wider vote and so on.
“That the point – it’s the democratic deficit about the Northern Ireland protocol and the way it operates.”
Baron Moylan argued Mr Coveney’s remarks were characteristic of the “dogmatic” thinking of both Ireland and the EU when it came to the Protocol, and Brexit in general.
He said: “The Irish Government sticks very closely to the EU line, that’s a deliberate choice on that part.
“I’m fairly sure the Irish government does understand the political and community situation in Northern Ireland – but I don’t think the EU has much of a clue.
“They think ‘Northern Ireland voted remain so they must be happy to stick to our rules.’
I think they have used Northern Ireland as a bargaining chip
“I think they have used Northern Ireland as a bargaining chip.”
Speaking today, Mr Coveney also Ireland’s Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney has welcomed the announcement that a First Minister and deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland will be nominated later.
Mr Coveney said it will allow the Northern Ireland Executive to continue its “essential work” on behalf of the people of Northern Ireland.
He added: “We look forward to working with the First and deputy First Minister, and all the parties in the Northern Ireland Executive, to the mutual benefit of people North and South, including at the next plenary meeting of the North South Ministerial Council which is planned for Friday in Armagh.”
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