Britain would consult with Dublin before imposing direct rule in no-deal Brexit

Bradley says if direct rule is restored to deal with issues around Brexit, it will be limited to short-term impact of leaving without deal

Northern Secretary Karen Bradley at the  Northern Ireland Affairs Committee in Westminster.  Photograph:  PA Wire

Northern Secretary Karen Bradley at the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee in Westminster. Photograph: PA Wire

 

The Belfast Agreement requires the British government to consult with Dublin before imposing direct rule in the event of a no-deal Brexit, Northern Secretary Karen Bradley has told MPs.

“We have an international agreement that we have signed as a country which says this is the way decision-making happens in Northern Ireland, and it happens through devolved institutions,” she told the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee.

“That is what both governments have signed up to. Changes to that, changes to the way decision-making is required, will require consultation and discussions with the Irish Government. ”

Theresa May told MPs on Monday that a no-deal Brexit could lead to some form of direct rule because civil servants in Northern Ireland did not have the authority to take necessary decisions in the absence of devolved institutions. Ian Paisley suggested that the government was “making it up as it went along”, and asked Ms Bradley why it had not properly prepared for a no-deal Brexit.

She said the government was well prepared, but it could not plan in advance for decisions taken by the EU or the Irish Government.

“We can do everything we can unilaterally – and we have and we are – but there are things that we cannot deal with because they are matters for different sovereign governments.”

Devolved policy areas

Ms Bradley said that if direct rule had to be restored to deal with issues surrounding Brexit, it would be strictly limited to the short-term impact of leaving the EU without a deal.

Ministers at Westminster would not make decisions about issues in broader devolved policy areas

“I think we have to be clear, if we were in no-deal and we had to take some form of direct rule, that would be to keep business as usual going on. It would not be about taking policy decisions with regard to reforming health, education etc.

“It would be to deal with the short-term impacts of no-deal, and making sure that people were able to continue to get to school, to work, the hospitals continued to function, that medicines were available to people as needed. That’s the kind of things that we would be focusing on in that scenario.”