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Northern Ireland deal isn’t temporary

by Hugo Dixon | 14.11.2019

Boris Johnson has made a series of false claims that the deal he has done for Northern Ireland is temporary, evaporates or will be superseded by a trade deal – and that the EU has no say over whether it quits the arrangements.

Claim 1: The arrangements will be “temporary”.

Boris Johnson, House of Commons

InFact: Johnson nixed the text in Theresa May’s original deal that talked about the arrangement applying only “temporarily” (Article 1.4, page 306). The arrangements can now only be ended if a simple majority of the NI Assembly votes against them. (See Article 18 of the new protocol). The chance of that happening is small since the DUP, which is opposed to the deal, doesn’t have a majority in the assembly, even when joined by other Unionist parties.

Claim 2:  “The salient feature of these arrangements is that they evaporate. They disintegrate. They vanish, unless a majority of the Northern Ireland Assembly elects to keep them…. The default position is alignment with the UK unless… there is a majority vote in the Assembly against that alignment.” 

Boris Johnson, House of Commons

InFact: The default position is alignment with the EU – and that only changes if a majority of the NI Assembly votes otherwise. If the Assembly doesn’t meet, which has been the case for most of the past three years, there won’t even be a vote. (See Article 18, para 5 of the revised Irish protocol).

Claim 3: The arrangements will be “superseded” if there is a free trade agreement (FTA) between the UK and the EU.

Boris Johnson, House of Commons

InFact: Again, this isn’t true. The new protocol drops a passage from May’s original agreement which said that the UK and EU shall use their “best endeavours to conclude, by 31 December 2020, an agreement which supersedes this Protocol”. (Article 2, para 1, page 307).

Claim 4: There is “absolutely no provision for the EU to have a say” on whether NI leaves these arrangements. 

Boris Johnson, House of Commons

InFact: That’s also wrong. The revised NI protocol says: “Any subsequent agreement between the Union and the United Kingdom shall indicate the parts of this Protocol which it supersedes.” So NI may leave parts of these arrangements if the EU agrees – and that means there is provision for it to have a say. (See Article 13 (8)).

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