A damning new report by the House of Lords has concluded that Boris Johnson’s interim Brexit deal on a crucial issue with the EU was better than the one struck by Rishi Sunak.
The committee, which has Brexiteer DUP peer Lord Dodds and arch Rejoiner Labor peer Lord Haine on it, has unanimously agreed that Mr Sunak should not have signed the Windsor Framework and just stuck with the deal Mr Johnson agreed in the first place.
In a series of damning conclusions, the committee has agreed that the key parts of thw Windsor Framework set up to deal with the Northern Ireland problem will fail to achieve what ministers hope.
The conclusions could not come at a worse time after a week which saw Brexiteer Tory MPs condemn the government’s attempts to force the Windsor Framework through parliament without scrutiny.
When Mr Sunak’s government sacked five Conservative Brexiteer MPs from a legislation committee looking at parcels going to Northern Ireland, the European Research Group chairman described the government as “bent”.
Join our free WhatsApp community for the latest political news
The key part of the conclusions was the difference between Boris Johnson’s protocol “as originally conceived” and what actually existed at the time of the Windsor Framework agreement after a series of concessions from the EU and delays of measures.
The committee noted: “While the provisions are less burdensome than the Protocol as originally conceived, they represent an increase in customs processes for business movements compared to the Protocol as it has operated to date, in particular for business-to-business movements where suppliers are not trusted traders.”
While, the committee welcomed measures on human medicines, concerns were raised for medication for animals.
“The veterinary, farming and agrifood sectors have expressed serious concern that a mutually agreed solution has yet to be reached.”
The peers added: “This issue needs to be resolved now rather than in 2025 when the cliffedge is looming.”
They also noted that taking pets to Northern Ireland from the rest of the UK will remain a problem.
“There will be no requirements on pets moving from Northern Ireland to Great Britain, although those moving pets from Great Britain to Northern Ireland will be required to microchip their pets and obtain a travel document valid for the lifetime of the pet.”
There are concerns that the EU has too much power to block attempts to help bring business to Northern Ireland with state aid potentially limiting internal investment.
“Experts have warned of the legal uncertainty and chilling effect on investment that may arise from the requirement to notify the European Commission of such measures, in particular given that a subsidy can be challenged by the Commission for a number of years after it is notified.
“It therefore remains to be seen how robust the UK Government and Commission’s interpretation of the Windsor Framework’s provisions on State aid will prove to be in practice.”
There were also concerns raised by the so-called red and green lanes, with green for Northern Ireland only and red for the EU.
“We again note concerns that the Windsor Framework could undercut the competitiveness of Northern Ireland businesses, which are required to ensure compliance with EU rules for goods, compared to competitors in Great Britain able to access the Northern Ireland market via the green lane.”
It noted that it will be very difficult for Northern Ireland businesses to use the green lane to the UK while the red lane capacity on paperwork is problematic.
The peers added: “More generally, the continued application of EU law in Northern Ireland remains politically contentious.
“For many in the unionist community in particular, and others, it raises constitutional issues of sovereignty in terms of the application of areas of EU law to Northern Ireland, but not to the rest of the UK.”
The committee also pointed out that under the Protocol the deal would have come to an end if people in Northern Ireland voted for it.
However, this has been replaced by the Stormont Brake which means there is no exit for Northern Ireland but if the assembly is up and running it could veto some EU rule changes.
They pointed out a lack of clarity over the Stormont Brake and concerns that it “would have limited scope.”
Commenting on the report, the Center for Brexit Policy thinktank chaired by former Conservative Party leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith said: “The report highlights the chaos the Windsor Framework is wreaking on so many businesses in Northern Ireland. For some, the Framework is even more problematic than the disastrous Northern Ireland Protocol.
“The comprehensive findings of this report make it clear that the Windsor Framework is not working and that the government has serious questions to answer.
“The Center for Brexit Policy has set out a solution in the form of Mutual Enforcement which removes the negative consequences of the Protocol and the Framework while achieving the broader objectives of the Protocol.
“Both the Protocol and the Framework have failed. The Government needs to think again – and fast.
“Seven years after the vote to leave the EU and EU law still remains supreme in Northern Ireland. This must not continue.”