Shadow Secretary of State asks whether Senedd now allowed to break international law after NI crisis
A member of the UK’s shadow cabinet has asked whether it’s now OK for the Senedd to break international law with the UK Government’s blessing after the political crisis in Northern Ireland.
Peter Kyle, the Shadow Secretary for Northern Ireland, spoke out after the UK Government said that Irish sea border checks agreed with the EU were a “matter for the Northern Ireland Executive” and not for them.
“Is the message that the Welsh Senedd or the Scottish Parliament can break international law too and the Government will have nothing to say about it?” he asked.
“It is another piece of vandalism committed against our Union by a reckless Government too busy partying to notice what is going on out there in the real world.”
Yesterday, Northern Ireland’s agriculture minister, the DUP’s Edwin Poots, issued an order to halt all post-Brexit checks on food and farming products coming from the rest of the UK.
He said he made the decision based on legal advice. But others such as the Republic of Ireland and Sinn Fein, the party the DUP shares power with, said it was unlawful and “a stunt”.
The First Minister of Northern Ireland, the DUP’s Paul Givan, later resigned in protest.
Today, a Belfast court ruled that checks on food and agricultural goods from Britain to Northern Ireland must continue pending a hearing next month.
The situation did not impress Labour MP Peter Kyle, who asked whether the UK Government would turn a blind eye to such shenanigans in Wales or Scotland.
“The same Government are now arguing that upholding the terms of the deal that they negotiated is not even the responsibility of the United Kingdom Government,” he said.
“Instead, they want us to believe that it is a function of the Northern Ireland Executive. In the last week, the Foreign Secretary and the Northern Ireland Secretary said that the Irish sea border checks are a ‘matter for the Northern Ireland Executive’.
“The protocol was signed into international law by the UK Government, and now they are bystanders as their deal falls apart, pathetically claiming that it is all somebody else’s responsibility.”
George Eustice, the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, however, defended the UK Government’s statement.
“The honourable Gentleman is right that the United Kingdom takes the lead role when it comes to international agreements—which is why my right honourable Friend the Foreign Secretary is now leading the discussions with her opposite number in the European Commission to resolve some of these issue,” he said.
“But matters such as SPS and agrifood issues are devolved to the Northern Ireland Executive.
“The honourable gentleman asked whether the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland could use reserved powers to issue directions and so on. As he will understand, the bar for such an intervention is high, and rightly so, and is entirely unnecessary at this stage: the checks are continuing and there is currently no change.”
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