Frost says Britain’s problem with governance of protocol goes beyond role of ECJ

Call for Northern Secretary Brandon Lewis to bring forward Irish language legislation

David Frost: ‘The problem is far too much EU law applies directly in Northern Ireland.’ Photograph: AP Photo/Virginia Mayo

David Frost: ‘The problem is far too much EU law applies directly in Northern Ireland.’ Photograph: AP Photo/Virginia Mayo

 

Britain and the EU could resolve their dispute over the role of the European Court of Justice (ECJ) if Westminster was allowed to replicate EU laws that apply in Northern Ireland, Brexit minister David Frost has suggested.

He said Britain’s problem with the governance of the Northern Ireland protocol went beyond the role of the ECJ, and that a resolution had to address the entire system beneath it.

“How do you deal with the total system that allows these privileged trading relationships for Northern Ireland into the single market yet makes that reconcilable with democracy and normal dispute settlement arrangements. That’s not a simple problem, but it’s one we’d like to have a proper conversation with the EU about,” he told the House of Lords European Affairs Committee.

In the Trade and Co-operation Agreement (TCA) the EU agreed to allow Britain to replicate EU state aid rules so they would no longer be subject to the jurisdiction of the ECJ. Lord Frost suggested that a similar approach to the protocol could help to address Britain’s concerns.

“The problem is far too much EU law applies directly in Northern Ireland. That’s the core of the problem. We don’t see that so much of it should apply. And therefore the interpretive role of the [ECJ]is also limited,” he said.

EU law

“Obviously one way of dealing with this problem is replication. It’s not the only way of dealing with it. But the problem we have – and this is why we keep focusing on long-run stability – is that if you maintain a system where lots of EU law applies without consent, in the end you set up divergence between Northern Ireland and Great Britain as we legislate in a different way.

“And therefore it’s not a stable system. Therefore you’ve got to have some other way than the simple application of EU law into Northern Ireland because that’s the generator of the problem.”

Earlier on Tuesday, MPs from Labour, the SNP, Plaid Cymru, Alliance, SDLP and Sinn Féin called on Northern Secretary Brandon Lewis to bring forward Irish language legislation.

Mr Lewis said earlier this year that if Stormont failed to pass a cultural package, including Irish language provisions, by the end of September he would introduce legislation at Westminster by the end of October.

Labour’s shadow Northern Ireland secretary Louise Haigh was among the MPs to join the call for action on the language organised by Conradh na Gaeilge. She said she was disappointed that the Northern Ireland Assembly had failed to pass legislation in accordance with the New Decade New Approach deal that restored the Stormont institutions last year.

“In the absence of a move by the Northern Ireland Assembly, Labour will support the passage of legislation should it come before parliament in the autumn. Commitments made must be honoured, and the rich diversity of identities and languages must be respected. It’s time for action,” she said.

Procedure

Mr Lewis told the House of Commons later that it was still technically possible for the Northern Ireland Executive to start a procedure that would allow for legislation before the end of its mandate.

“If it becomes clear that the Executive is unable to do that or is not moving that forward then we’ll bring forward legislation for that cultural package,” he said.

Mr Lewis was speaking during a debate on legislation to extend the period within which an election must be held if the Executive collapses. It would also allow Stormont ministers to remain in place for up to 48 weeks if the First Minister or Deputy First Minister resigns.