The Windsor Framework: a backdoor to Brexit betrayal
Rishi Sunak’s Northern Ireland deal sells out UK sovereignty.
The Windsor Framework is expected to pass in parliament on Wednesday. Conservative prime minister Rishi Sunak even says he is willing to rely on Labour votes to make sure of it. We are told that people are ‘tired’ of EU negotiations and just want an end to it all. The Windsor Framework certainly marks an end to Brexit – in more ways than one.
This is because the Windsor Framework, Sunak’s renegotiated version of the Northern Ireland Protocol, gives the EU control of Northern Ireland and by extension, control of the UK. It essentially torpedoes the UK-EU trade agreement, destroying any notion of a relationship between equals, and it returns the UK to law-taker status. A win-win for the EU.
Tired people and politicians like compromises. The problem is that law cannot be compromised. Someone always wins and someone always loses. In the case of the Windsor Framework, the conflict is over which legal system will govern the UK. There are only two answers here: ours or the EU’s. Under the framework as it stands, the EU will win.
This will have a real, tangible impact on the UK’s ability to govern itself. For example, a bill is currently making its way through parliament that would outlaw importing hunting trophies of endangered species. This is not only the will of the UK government – it is also a popular policy with the public. It will be rendered pointless, however, by the Windsor Framework.
The compromise offered by the framework means that trophies can still be brought back to Northern Ireland. EU law will remain dominant in Northern Ireland and the EU does not intend to introduce any similar hunting-trophy ban. Once in Northern Ireland, there are several ways the trophies then pass seamlessly into the UK.
This was pointed out to the government last week by DUP MP Sammy Wilson. And the government had to concede that it was true. Trudy Harrison, parliamentary under-secretary of state for natural environment and land use, agreed that any trophy that qualified as a good under the United Kingdom Internal Market Act 2020 will be allowed to pass from Northern Ireland into Great Britain.
So, whatever you think of this issue, parliament is set to enact a ‘ban’ that is a ban in name only. It will be a nonsense law. The government will have compromised away all its power.
This will happen time and again. Successive UK governments – of all parties – will want to pass new laws and follow through on campaign promises. The only way they will be able to do so is if the EU agrees.
There is a standard assumption in the UK that all EU law is marvellous. It’s not dissimilar to Del Boy Trotter’s famous deference to anything French. But it means our politicians and media often overlook what the EU is actually up to. For instance, earlier this year, the EU made it lawful for partially defatted cricket powder – an insect product – to be put into food. All sorts of things from pasta to flour to beer can now legally contain cricket powder in the EU. If the Windsor Framework passes through parliament, food with this powder will also be allowed into the UK, in the same way that the supposedly illegal hunting trophies would be. And our government will be powerless to stop it. The UK won’t even have a say over how products containing the cricket powder are labelled. All that will lie with the EU.
The EU has an expansive approach to allowing insect products into the food chain. Under the Windsor Framework, the UK will be powerless to stop the same from happening here. Hate the idea? You could try to elect a government that promises to stop it. But under the framework, it simply won’t matter.
Who remembers mad cow disease? Or foot and mouth? In the UK, we introduced laws to stop the spread of these diseases, outlawing the feeding of animal remains to livestock. While we were bickering over Brexit, however, the EU lifted its own ban on this in 2021. The result is that animal feed containing other animals will be allowed into Northern Ireland. And, you guessed it, from there it can pass into the whole of the UK. And no MP can do anything about it.
The Windsor Framework is not a ‘compromise’ to bring an end to Brexit – it is the transfer of control to the EU. Some things cannot be compromised on – no matter how hard people try. The UK can either govern itself or let the EU do it. Let’s see which choice MPs make on Wednesday.
Steven Barrett is a barrister.
Picture by: Getty.
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