UK has clear responsibility to maintain integrity of backstop, says Farry

Alliance Brexit spokesperson Stephen Farry MLA has described the contents of today’s UK Government paper on the operation of the backstop as “spin”.

The Alliance Deputy Leader added the Government would have treaty obligations under the Withdrawal Agreement to maintain the integrity of the backstop, with any failure to do so constituting a breach of faith and undermining the protections of Northern Ireland.

“Alliance has made clear across the Brexit negotiations the Assembly should not have a veto over the introduction of the backstop. This is a matter for the UK Government and the EU,” said Dr Farry.

“In the circumstance the backstop within the Withdrawal Agreement was triggered, as and when relevant EU law changes and identified by the Joint Committee, there would be a requirement for action to ensure Northern Ireland remains in compliance in order to maintain integrity of the backstop including avoiding a hard border, maintaining north-south co-operation and protecting rights. If this does not happen, the backstop would be undermined and the protections it offers diluted.

“There may be some changes to relevant EU regulation in which the UK Government will have a responsibility to implement changes that would have previously been automatic.

“In other respects, the Executive and Assembly already have responsibilities for transposing EU directives into domestic law when they apply to devolved areas. It would be logical for any functioning devolved institutions to continue with responsibilities in that respect. However, there would be risk of political games being played by the DUP inside the Executive and abuse of the petition of concern on the floor of the Assembly, and indeed the Assembly may not be operational. Therefore, if we didn’t have a functioning Assembly or if the Executive and Assembly failed to act, then there would be an obligation on the UK Government to act.

“The Government’s proposals seem to add different layers of consultation. They primarily amount to spin but could lead to further brinkmanship, bureaucracy, delay and more spin. Anything that gave a substantive veto to the Northern Ireland Assembly would constitute a unilateral breach of the Withdrawal Agreement.”

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