The announcement that the meaningful vote on the UK Government’s Withdrawal Agreement has now been abandoned demonstrates an utter weakness and incompetency. Knowing full well that the vote would be lost the UK Government has denied Parliament its agreed right to vote.
We are now only told that it has been deferred. When pressed we are not given a new date and according the the House of Commons Clerks this could be as late as the 28 March 2019 – the day before we are set to leave the EU.
I got a chance to point out to the Prime Minister that we are in this sorry situation because of her own red lines on the European Court of Justice and a Customs Union. All of these red lines have made it impossible to get an agreement that protects the security of Northern Ireland, the links between the nations in our union and future prosperity. This Government’s determination to ride roughshod over Parliament is deeply concerning.
My concerns over the UK Government’s inaction to prove that no infrastructure will be built on the Northern Irish / Republic of Ireland border continue. I have asked many times if they will rule out any infrastructure – which includes simple things such as CCTV – and each time I have received no concise clear answer.
This time I pressed to see if the Government had spent anything on investigating the possibility of infrastructure on the border. The minister retorted that he is “pretty certain” that the answer is no.
I am appalled that he couldn’t give a categorical answer either way – especially when the peace process in Northern Ireland is such a fragile thing. Any creation of infrastructure on the border will raise tensions within the communities of Northern Ireland and I fear for its consequences that is why we need to be part of a customs union with the EU following Brexit.
Following comments made by the Transport Secretary over the weekend on there being no border checks following Brexit, an Urgent Question was secured by Labour to test the Government on their proposals.
As ever, I am concerned that the Government has no plans on the impact of a customs border between the Republic of Ireland, Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK. As it stands the Government keep refering to ‘technology’ as being the solution but we still have no idea what this means.
Once again I pressed how the Government would ensure that jobs aren’t lost due to customs checks. Once again I got no hard response. I want to see the UK be part of a Customs Union with the EU to ensure that the Good Friday Agreement is maintained and so that no border is created between the nations and regions of the UK.
On Friday the Prime Minister gave a speech on the UK Government’s approach to Brexit. Instead of there being answers there was more soundbites. I am really concerned by the Government’s refusal to accept a customs union with the remaining EU member states. Without it we will see a hard border constructed between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland or even the division of Northern Ireland from UK mainland.
As a former Northern Ireland minister I know the sacrifices that people have made to bring about improvements in the peace process in the island of Ireland. This is still a process. It has not finished and if the UK Government cannot find a solution – like the one offered by Labour to join a customs union – we must all be concerned about the stability of Northern Ireland.