Germans have a word for it: ‘Schadenfreude’. It means to take a personal delight in other people’s misfortunes. Oh how I’ve done that these past 36 hours. To see the entire Remainer commentariat convulsed in anti-government hysteria over the proposed Internal Market Bill and how its provisions affect the workings of the Withdrawal Agreement in Northern Ireland, has been nothing short of exhilarating.
Let’s remind ourselves of how we got here. Very early on in the Brexit drama, Remainers were poised to use Northern Ireland as a weapon to deny the United Kingdom a Brexit in any meaningful sense of the word. It began when pundits erroneously proclaimed the Belfast Agreement was incompatible with the principle of Brexit. When the High Court in Belfast dismissed such a ridiculous notion, the strategy was then in play for the May government to use the province as an anchor to tie the entire country to a whole panoply of EU regulations under the guise of the so-called ‘backstop. Theresa May, who was to Prime Ministerial mettle what Isadora Duncan was to in-car safety tips, was a willing participant in this charade. Dublin and Brussels were entirely at one in wanting to weaponise the issue of peace in Northern Ireland for their own ends. Not to mention intervening in UK domestic politics during the time the country was at its most divided so they could have a stab at trying to reverse the referendum result.
Can somebody remind me of how many times the EU has broken its own international treaties this century alone? I can think of the banking bailout, ECB deficit financing, fiscal transfers, and joint debts. That’s just for starters! To summarise the first part of my analysis: The EU used Northern Ireland as a wedge to try and keep the UK in its regulatory orbit. The province was used as a negotiating pressure point. To claim otherwise is just being disingenuous.
So now let’s turn to the issue of whether the government is actually breaking the terms of the Withdrawal Treaty with its new Bill. Notwithstanding what Brandon Lewis said in the House of Commons yesterday, the fact remains the UK (and every other state) transpose international law into domestic law in different ways. Ways which have to be compatible with their long-standing constitutional arrangements. For example, when the ‘binding’ international law provisions of the Belfast Agreement (also NI-related) were incorporated into domestic law under the 1998 Northern Ireland Act, the references to ‘binding obligations’ had been removed.
Because no international treaty can force Parliament to fetter its sovereignty over any part of the UK, nor can it bind its successor. Was there any fuss over that? I can’t recall any. In any event, Clause 38 of the EU Withdrawal Act, which puts the WA into UK law, specifically says nothing in that Withdrawal Treaty affects the sovereignty of Parliament. Whilst domestic law provisions don’t necessarily override those made internationally (one thing the media has gotten right in its woeful coverage of this stand-off), they allow the government significant wriggle room to apply those provisions in accordance with its own sovereign remit. That is especially the case when the international law in question is riddled with ambiguities as is the case here.
In other words, we should ask whether an overly-partisan Remainer media is making a sacred cow out of an ambiguous legal text, which has at least one effect not intended by the negotiators and which will damage the peace process if rigorously implemented. For although the media, the Dublin political class and EU bureaucrats have spent 4 years pretending Unionists don’t exist, I’ll remind them they very much do exist, and will not tolerate arrangements that cut them off from the rest of the UK. Moreover, they won’t tolerate arrangements that deprive Northern Ireland of by far its largest external market. The combined import-export percentage for Northern Ireland’s goods trade with Great Britain is 63%. The Republic of Ireland? 13%! There is no meaningful ‘all-Ireland economy’ irrespective of what shrieking Shinners like to claim.
I doubt whether the provisions in today’s Bill will amount to anything like the hysteria we’ve been subjected to since Monday night. They will simply allow the UK Government to protect the entirety of its internal market in the event a deal cannot be reached in Brussels. What I think really irks those apostles of all things Jean Monnet is the fact that, in the final analysis, London can make these moves and the EU is ultimately powerless to stop it.
Background Reading here
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